Exercising at the same pace may be comfortable, but is it getting the results you want?
Interval training offers a change from steady-pace exercise, where you work at a consistent level. Mixed into your normal exercise routine, it involves a series of short bursts of intense effort, followed by a recovery period.
This higher level of intensity boosts the kilojoule-burning, fat-burning and fitness-increasing benefits of exercise.
How effective is it?
Training at a higher level of intensity (in small, tolerable doses) helps your body adapt to a higher level of fitness and stamina. Intense exercise triggers a bigger boost in your metabolic rate, so you will continue to burn kilojoules at a higher rate after you have finished training.
What's more, intense exercise is thought to trigger a significantly higher production of chemicals called ‘catecholamines', which act to break down fat stores and help utilise body fat as fuel.
A recent study1 compared overweight women who cycled at a steady, constant state for 40 minutes with another group who cycled for 20 minutes, but performed frequent, intense eight second bursts followed by a 12 second active rest. The interval group lost three times more weight. That's triple the weight loss in half the time!
The advantages of interval training
- Bigger boost of your metabolic rate
- Increased kilojoule use
- Increased weight and fat loss
- Achieve a higher level of aerobic fitness
- Helps you break through a weight loss plateau
- Increased appetite suppression
- Increase in energy levels
- Prevents boredom
- More relevant training for sports
Practical tips on interval training
Following are some tips on how to incorporate interval training into your exercise routine:
Aim to train 2-3 times a week
Interval training is intense, so your body needs more time to recover. Try to space out your interval training over the week so you have lighter training days in between
Use time, or landmarks
Exercise equipment is ideal for interval training, because you have a clock in front of you at all times. If you are outside walking or running, use telegraph poles or parked cars as a guide to your work and active rest periods. Swimmers could do a fast lap followed by a slow lap
Aim to progress
As your fitness improves, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your intervals, and / or reduce the duration of your rest period.
Warning about interval training
If you are overweight, or have a history of heart disease, don't push yourself too hard too soon. Make your intervals only slightly harder than normal, and gradually build up over time. Check with your doctor if you have any concerns.
Andrew Cate is an online weight-loss coach and personal trainer. Andrew's book "Walk Off Weight " includes an eight week food and exercise plan, with tasty recipes and meal plan ideas. It also includes tips on how walkers of all different levels can train to lose body fat. For more information and a free extract, visit www.andrewcate.com