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7 Good Reasons to Try Interval Training

By , SparkPeople Blogger
What if I told you there was an exercise technique that could burn more calories—and fat—in less time that was also fun? You may think that I was hawking some fitness gadget in an infomercial, or simply lying to you, but neither of those theories hold true. The amazing workout is called interval training. During interval training, exercisers alternate between high-intensity efforts and low-intensity recovery efforts during a single cardio (aerobic) workout session. It can be as simple as sprinting between two telephone poles and then walking for the next two, or a regimented plan using a stopwatch and specific training schedule. Either way, adding just a couple sessions of interval training to your workouts each week is sure to boost your fitness level, accelerate your fat loss and help you beat boredom.

Here are 7 reasons to try interval training yourself, plus tips and workouts to get you started.

Interval training burn more calories. Most of us exercise at a continuous intensity during our cardio workouts. This is called "continuous training." While continuous training is the most common way to exercise and still offers ample benefits, such as burning calories, "Interval training burns calories quicker," Kerri O'Brien of Life Fitness recently told Reuters. "If you're doing interval training for 20 minutes it can burn as many calories you would in 40 minutes," of steady-state training, she explained.

Interval training burns more fat. Doing short bursts of higher-intensity exercise encourages your body to burn body fat as fuel. A small study from 2007 had eight women in their 20s cycle for 10 sets of intervals (four minutes higher intensity, followed by two minutes of rest). After the interval training, the women burned 36% more fat during an hour of continuous training (moderate cycling). The results were published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Other studies have found that even when the workout is over, exercisers have a higher post-workout calorie burn (their metabolism remains elevated) after interval training than after continuous training.

Interval training works for all fitness levels. According to the American Council on Exercise, everyone from beginner exercisers to elite athletes can perform (and benefit from) interval training. Beginners, for example, can use interval training to slowly work their way up to higher intensity exercise, such as walk-jog intervals, which can help one work up to running continuously. Advanced exercisers can use high intensity intervals to improve speed, power and performance.

Interval training can boost your fitness level. The same study mentioned above also found that subjects who performed interval training improved their cardiovascular fitness by 13%. Another study, also published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (in 2005), found that college-age men and women doubled their exercise endurance after just two weeks of interval training. The control group who did not perform interval training, showed no improvements in their endurance.

Interval training works for the tortoise and the hare. Sometimes you feel like doing a hard workout. Sometimes, you feel like taking it easy. Interval training is a great alternative to both scenarios, and perfect for people who need to force themselves to change up their programs. I tend to turn to interval training on days that I'm feeling a little lazy since I know I won't have to force myself to do a tough workout, and that I'll get to enjoy the low-intensity exercise I'm craving. In this sense, interval training is a great way to cross train, too. If your usual routine is to run at a steady pace, or pick one level on the elliptical and stick it out for 30 minutes, you'll be doing your body a favor by changing up the speed and intensity of your workouts. You don't even have to change what you do to work out. Interval training can be applied to almost any type of exercise: walking, running, biking, cardio machines, indoor cycling, swimming, dancing—even strength training.

Interval training can combat boredom. Probably one of the greatest benefits of interval training is that it really passes the time, which can make your workouts seem more fun. Rather than drudging away at the same boring intensity, interval training keeps your mind engaged and helps your workouts go by faster by breaking down one long workout into smaller, more manageable chunks of time. Each interval you complete is another notch closer to your cool down.

Interval training means less time in the gym. Since you're working harder (for a short period), you can get away with shorter workouts when you perform interval training—and the benefits are essentially the same in terms of endurance and calorie burn. This is a great option when you're short on time but want to squeeze in an effective workout, or when you have a hard time committing to exercise in general. The shorter your workouts are, the more likely you'll be to stick with them.

Ready to try interval training? The following resources will help you get started on the right foot:

Introduction to Interval Training
Interval Training Workouts: Elliptical
Interval Training Workouts: Running
Interval Training Workouts: Stationary Bike
Interval Training Workouts: Walking

Is interval training part of your workout plan? If not, are you ready to give it a try?

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HEDSTS58 7/19/2019
Great idea Report
NASFKAB 3/13/2019
Thank you Report
LIDDY09 3/10/2019
Thanks Report
HOLLYM48 3/10/2019
Great article! Report
MSROZZIE 3/9/2019
I love low-impact H.I.I.T. I have low back and knee issues and feel great after my short workouts. Thanks for this article! Report
KHALIA2 3/6/2019
Thank you! Report
RCLYKE 2/16/2019
great info Report
WONDERGALE 12/4/2018
Thanks! Report
KHALIA2 12/4/2018
I am willing to give this one a try. Report
thanks Report
Thank You for a great article............ Report
Great article. Report
Good article. Report
Thank you Report
I need to work on this. Report
These are great tips. Report
Interval training keeps things interesting...............Thank You. Report
Thanks for the wonderful article. Report
Thank you! Report
Interval training is a very good way to build up your endurance. Report
Great article! Report
Going to get back to interval training too .... thanks Report
I need to try this. Report
I enjoy interval training, it's a great boost to your workout! Report
I enjoy interval training technique. Report
I am going to try this today Report
I really enjoy the results from HIIT but when it's too intense, I do something else like jumping jacks and jump rope... It's all physical just in a different form. Report
something to try Report
Who knew how effective interval cardio training is in managing Type 2 diabetes? And how you do more in less time.

It is a little tough getting used to; I've been an old-school, bell-curve kind of sequencer all this time ... Report
i gave it a try this morning and it was really cool. time passed by real quick and i had fun. Report
Guess I didn't realize that I was doing interval training on my treadmill, alternating between running and a fast walk....awesome! Report
I do interval training on my treadmill. It is good to know that as I recover from my high intensity run to a light jog, I am increasing my caloric burn. Toggling back and forth from high intensity to med-low and then back to high is a good thing. I thought I was just too out of shape to keep a continuous workout on high intensity. Report
Interval training is kick butt and you feel so great after Report
Interval training has really worked well for me, someone who used to dread cardio, now I can't wait to get in a great workout! Report
Tried this last night and got through the beginner level for the treatmill pretty good, but not sure i can do the intermediate level yet. I've been doing 30 minutes on the treadmill at 5 mph for awhile, but sweat more doing the interval training than I had ever before. Report
Have never tried interval training but I am fairly new to any form of exercise! Interesting article will give it some thought. Report
I swear by interval and circuit training. Loves them both! Report
Great article to learn from - will start doing this! Report
I would definetly love to give interval training a try. Unfortunately, I have to wait until I get over my burcitis. thanks for the websites on programs. Definetly going to save those away for when I can start up interval training. :) Report
Thanks, going to give the treadmill a workout Report
I plan to try next week! I am working on a challenge that finishes this week. Thanks for the blog! Report
Just started doing interval training the past few days. Thanks for the motivation to continue with it. Makes sense to me! Report
Great points, Coach Nicole! Report
Wow, what are you a calorie cop? The article mentions "burning calories". We all don't need a lesson on what a calorie is and what is actually "burned". Thank you though, I found your comment comical, and although it wasn't your intent, I got a chuckle out of it. Report
I like this... but how do you enter it in the fitness page (cardio) on Spark?
I am ready to try this! Report
Wow.. really? A whee bit on the picky side.

In that same vein, you realize that "Politics" doesn't have a job, Politicians do.
Please use the language properly. Report
I regularly do interval training. Just wish there was a way to track this kind of workout on my SP fitness tracker! Report
You can not burn calories. Calories are units of measure. What they measure is energy produced by burning matter such as fat or protean or natural gas. You do not burn calories. What you want to do is burn glucose that your body produces by converting fat. Please use the language properly. Changing the meaning of words is the job of politics. Report
Fartleks and hills are my least favorite part of marathon training.... but I can appreciate them better knowing that they're not just good for building speed, they burn more calories too.

Link to Fartlek info: