The benefits of interval training

Want to get your workout done in half the time? Then interval training may be the option for you!

Research shows that interval training – workouts in which you alternate periods of high-intensity exercise with low-intensity recovery periods – helps to increase fitness and burn more calories over a shorter period of time than steady-state cardio.

So whether you want to shake up your fitness routine, or fit your workout into a hectic lifestyle, then this type of fitness training is one worth knowing about.

Interval training explained

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has emerged in the last decade as a style of cardiovascular exercise that is especially helpful for burning fat, building strength and enhancing endurance.

An interval training workout follows the format of alternating a period of high intensity activity with a period of low intensity activity – which can be done over a relatively short space of time, because you do ‘short bursts’ of activity.

So instead of going for an hour long jog, just 20 minutes of interval training will achieve the same – if not better – results, because it burns calories quickly.

It also improves the efficiency of mitochondria – the tiny organelles that allow your muscles to use oxygen to create energy – which may allow you to burn fat more quickly than with a continuous workout

How does it work

Interval training is in fact one of the easiest and most efficient ways to burn fat and lose weight without losing muscle!

The process of interval training is relatively simple and you can easily incorporate it into your fitness workout – without having to join a gym or buy any expensive equipment.

For example, instead of doing an hours jog where you jog at the same pace throughout, you might do the following: after a short warm-up period, put maximum 100-percent effort into a full-out run for 30 seconds, then slow to a brisk walk or jog at about 60-percent effort for 1 minute, and repeat that cycle for 20 minutes.

Or you might do jumping jacks as fast as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and then run in place as fast as you can for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds, and repeat that five times.
It’s all about alternating the high intensity bursts with the periods of lower activity.

Varied

While you might first think of HIIT in regard to running, you can actually do a wide variety of exercises in alternating levels of intensity, too, such as rowing, swimming or jumping rope.

You can even do HIIT with body weight exercises like squats, push-ups, or triceps dips.

So interval training is a form of training for everybody – the principle is the same, but you can vary the degrees of intensity and apply it to the sport of your choice.

The benefits of interval training

Whether you exercise regularly or you’re a relative newcomer to fitness in general, interval training can have a range of positive benefits.

HIIT training has been shown to improve:
• Aerobic and anaerobic fitness
• Blood pressure
• Cardiovascular health
• Insulin sensitivity (which helps the exercising muscles more readily use glucose for fuel to make energy)
• Cholesterol profiles
• Abdominal fat and body weight

Let’s look at some of these in a bit more detail:

Firstly, interval training is efficient. If you have a busy schedule, or need to fit your workout into a quick lunch break – or even to get fit for a fast approaching event – then interval training certainly works quickly, and you can achieve great results whilst doing a shorter workout.

You will also burn more fat and plenty of calories if you’re doing it properly. It’s an exercise where the more vigorously you exercise, the more calories you will burn – even in a shorter space of time. The effect of the high intensity bursts will kick your body into overdrive – which leaves your body burning calories for 24 hours after you work-out!

It will also help to keep your heart healthy – most people aren’t used to pushing into the anaerobic zone (when you can’t breathe and exercising hurts). But this type of training is good for your heart and will really help to build your endurance.

You’ll build up your aerobic fitness level – as you improve your cardiovascular fitness, you’ll be able to exercise with more intensity and for longer.

Turning up your activity can also add a bit more interest to your workout routine – if you get bored easily on a long walk or run, interspersing periods of high and low activity will keep you on your toes.

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For more fitness, exercise and nutrition tips, explore the rest of our website.

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