The Mayo Clinic
Are you ready to shake up your workout routine? Do you wish you could burn more calories without spending more time at the gym? Consider aerobic interval training. Once the domain of elite athletes, interval training has become a powerful tool for the average exerciser too.
What is interval training?
It's not as complicated as you might think. Interval training is simply alternating bursts of intense activity with lighter activity.
For example, take walking. If you're in good shape, you can incorporate short bursts of jogging into your regular brisk walks. If you're less fit, you might alternate leisurely walking with periods of faster walking.
What can interval training do for me?
Whether you're a novice or you've been exercising for years, interval training can help you jazz up your workout routine. Consider these four benefits:
1. You'll burn more calories.
The more vigorously you exercise, the more calories you'll burn--even if you increase intensity for just a few minutes at a time.
2. You'll improve your aerobic capacity.
As your cardiovascular fitness improves, you'll be able to exercise longer or with more intensity. Imagine finishing your 60-minute walk in 45 minutes--or the additional calories you'll burn by keeping up the pace for the full 60 minutes.
3. You'll keep boredom at bay.
Turning up your intensity in short intervals can add variety to your exercise routine.
4. You don't need special equipment.
You can simply modify your current routine.
How will my muscles respond to interval training?
During intense exercise, muscles produce waste products that can cause soreness and exhaustion. But by alternating bursts of intense exercise with easier intervals, you'll help reduce the buildup of waste products in your muscles. The result is more comfortable exercise.
Are the principles of interval training the same for everyone?
Yes. You can determine the length and speed of each high-intensity interval based on how you feel. After warming up, you might increase the intensity for 30 seconds and then resume your normal pace. The next burst of intense activity may last two to three minutes. How much you pick up the pace, how often, and for how long is up to you.
If you're working toward a specific sports goal, take a more scientific approach. Intervals may include movement patterns similar to those you'll use during your sport--based on your target heart rate, the ability of your heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to your muscles, and other factors. This type of interval training also adds variety to your workout, but it requires more discipline and concentration.
Does interval training have risks?
Interval training isn't appropriate for everyone. If you have a health condition or haven't been exercising regularly, consult your doctor before trying any type of interval training.
Also keep the risk of overuse injury in mind. Start slowly and try just one or two higher intensity intervals during each workout at first. As your stamina improves, challenge yourself to vary the pace. You may be surprised by the results.