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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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I think my gym offers this so I will check this out. Thanks for the article! Report
I do intervals on the treadmill and when I'm walking outside. I downloaded a program on my ipod that has music with different beats slow, moderate, fast, moderate...etc. That helps me adjust my speed without looking at a watch. Report
I've been doing interval training for a while, but not very regularly. I really need/want to make more of an effort to incorporate high intensity interval training into my weekly workout schedule, especially since I want to improve my running this winter. Fartleks, here I come! Report
Tried it today. Have been walking 45 mins 3 or 4 times a week at park. Today
walked 12 mins then RAN 30 seconds. Did 3 sets then ended with walking 15 more minutes. Had weighed last night at inlaws the first time in 6 weeks. Thanks to leftover Halloween candy, had gained back 2 pounds---UGH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Next month hope to be able to report accelerated weight loss from intervals.
I've been doing HIIT for a few years now. Lately I've been doing HIIT 2-3 days a week. The other days I do GXP.

2/3 Report
I do interval training on the treadmill at the gym. I can't yet run long stretches but am getting longer. It also helps because my heart rate jumps up way high and the rest periods help me to get back down to the "burning level." I love my intervals :) Report
One of my girlfriends had me interval train on the elliptical with her at the gym once. I was ready to die! It worked my legs and butt in in such a short time that it almost didn't feel like a workout, except for the burn. Report
Intervals definitely help me get in a good workout! Report
YES, I read about this, then a personal trainer suggested it. I'm trying to start running and this has worked very good with that, and boom 3 lbs gone in 2 weeks. By george I think it may really work!!! Report
Sounds like a fun way to change up the treadmill workout! I am looking forward to trying it out! Thanks for the tips! Report
Interval training is what everyone will be doing in 5 years. It is the most effective and efficient way to get fit and lose weight. It has changed my life. I have doing high intensity interval training for 2 and one-half years and love what it does for me.

It really helps to use a heart monitor and train to a heart rate level, usually 80-85%. Do clear
it with your doctor before pushing to this
level. You will love the results, I promise! Report
I use the interval setting on the treadmill, I am not very fit and love that it gives me a cool down in the middle of exerting myself. Report
I have been doing interval training for sometime. Its great! Shakes things up a bit. I will do it on the treadmill with running and than a jog. Or walking and than jog. To change things up I will run on the treadmill and than do a few sets with weights and get back on the treadmill and run for a few. That always makes me feel really goo. Report
I absolutely love interval training. I have been doing it for about 2 weeks now and am already noticing a difference. I use the treadmill at a 2 degree incline and warm up at a slow pace for a few minutes. I found a website that had an example of a workout and kind of came up with my own. I walk at 4 mph for 1 minute and then run at 6.5 mph for 30 sec. I keep doing that for 35 minutes and then walk at 4 mph for 5 min and then start my cool down by slowly decreasing the speed. I usually burn about 380 calories and go a little over 3 miles within 45 minutes. I find my workout seems to go so much quicker and I look forward to it. Report
I am an indoor cycle instructor and all my classes incorporate intervals. I SWEAR by interval training! Stokes my 40-something-year-old metabolism right up!!!! Report
I have just started back with my interval training.

Randall Report
I do interval training, but not at these intervals. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I finish an interval, and some of the senior citizens at my gym think I'm a bit of a nut job for going so fast!

I'm going to change to these intervals, though. I've been on a plateau for a few months and I'm looking for something to change things up a little bit. This might be just the thing to make the scale start moving again! Thanks! Report
I definitely need to start doing this. I do pretty much the same thing everyday....walk for 30-45 minutes during my lunch. I think I'll start adding a quick jog in every few minutes. Report
Interval training really rocks! It has helped me with my conditioning..... Report
That's the premise of the couch-to-5k program...building up the endurance to be able to run for 30 mins/3 miles at the end of the 9wk program. And I can attest to it really working...of course I wasn't up to the running for 30 mins straight at the end of the 9wks LOL but I was in a way better place than when I started and could barely run for 90seconds straight- by the end I could run for almost 10 mins non-stop. Report
I love interval training! It keeps me on my toes and interested in my workouts. Plus, I think the training is good for better performance if you're an athlete. Report
nice tips gonna use them Report
I added intervals to my walking routine. I would warm up with a slow pace for 5 to 7 minutes, then pick it up to my "normal" walking pace. I'd walk at "normal" for 5 minutes then ramp it up, walking as quickly as I could, for 3 minutes. I'd repeat that scenario for the duration of my walk (30 - 45 minutes) and then walk slowly for the last 5 to 10 minutes for my cool down. I don't know if I noticed any significant changes (in more weight lost), but my goal was to get my speed up and to eventually go from fast walking intervals to jogging intervals. I've been sidelined by an injury, so I guess it will be back to square 1 in about a week or so. Report
I love interval training. It takes less time, and time goes by so much quicker also. Report
I started HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) a couple of months ago and am seeing very impressive results with much less time spent working out. This is a very effective way of getting into and keeping in shape! Report
Aaaah, yes! I remember some 10 years ago, (before my fat years!) I used to run every night. I was very happy with myself. Untill I ran with a woman who was in the army. She joined me for fun (oh, yeah) and showed it to me! I ran slowly but strongly. then she said: "Let's sprint from pole to pole and then slow down the next ...!" I liked it, but it killed me! However, I did run like that later on. Not always! I am a hare. What can I say...
Now you remind me of this and made me think....THANKS! Report
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