Why interval training is better for you.

You don’t have to be a competitive athlete to get the benefits of interval training. While interval training helps give athletes a leg up on the competition, studies show it can also help trim your waistline.

The basics
Interval training simply means varying the intensity of your workout session. Just alternate bursts of higher intensity exercise (called “work intervals”) with low to moderate intensity intervals (called “active recovery”) for the entire workout. For example, walk for two minutes then jog for one minute, repeat for 30 minutes.

The benefits
If you do the same workout day in and day out, your body gets used to it and stops responding. Interval training gets you out of your exercise comfort zone, and keeps your body guessing. Interval training:

  • Burns more calories and fat. Two minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is about the same as one minute of vigorous exercise. By adding interval training, you’ll burn more calories than if you exercised at a steady pace.
  • Boosts aerobic fitness. You’ll be able to exercise at a harder intensity for a longer period of time.
  • Saves time. Because interval training burns more calories and fat, you won’t have to work out as long to get your desired results.
  • Tackles boredom. Work intervals can freshen a tired workout routine and help keep you motivated.

Amp up your workout routine
Just one or two interval workouts each week will give you results. Experts say that people of all fitness levels can benefit from interval training.

  • Beginners: Add short bursts of brisk walking to your existing walking program. Decide when to pick up the pace by gauging how you feel. Always talk to your doctor first before you increase your activity level.
  • Intermediate: Supplement your fast walk with short intervals of jogging or jumping jacks.
  • Experienced: Enhance your jog by adding some running intervals. For example, run hard for two minutes, then jog slowly for one minute and repeat.

As you get fitter, you’ll be able to:

  • Exercise harder during the work intervals. You started off doing a light jog, but now you may be able to sprint.
  • Work out harder for longer: At first, 30 seconds of high-intensity training may have seemed hard, but now you can do it for two minutes.
  • Recover more quickly. As you get in shape, you’ll need less time to recover between work intervals.
  • Stretch out your total workout time. You won’t fatigue as quickly as you did when you first started. As a result, you’ll be able to work out for a longer time and gain more health benefits.

Alternatives to speed
Adding speed to your workout is just one way to interval train. You could also:

  • Add an incline. When you’re using the treadmill, adjust the incline during your high-intensity spurts. Or exercise on a hilly route outdoors.
  • Add weight. If you use a stationary bike or elliptical trainer, turn up the resistance a few notches to add intensity to your workout.

Interval training is hard work, but the effort is worth it. Whether your goal is beating the competition, slimming down or shaping up, mix it up with interval training.

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