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Interval Training

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Adhering to a regular exercise regime improves fitness level and also makes you feel good. Aerobic exercises, strength exercises, flexibility exercises, these three-exercise programs would usually form part of an all-round fitness maintenance schedule. In recent times, Interval training is fast gaining popularity amongst fitness enthusiasts - especially with people who struggle to find considerable amount of time to devote to exercise. Hitherto, recommended by exercise experts to professional athletes, interval training has now gained wider acceptance even among novice exercisers.

What is Interval training? Is interval training beneficial for all? Does it really help in losing weight and toning leg muscles? Read further to find answers to these questions. Before incorporating interval training as an integral part of your fitness routine, examine the pros and cons.


Exercise and fat loss

Exercise and the implication on the body to burn fat are closely related. The exercise method or technique to a large extent determines the amount and speed at which the body burns fat. Exercise methods can be broadly classified as:


  • Using low-energy and involving in a sustained exercise (it takes three hours for the body to burn more fat than carbohydrates)

  • A high-intensity exercise (just after 18 minutes the body can burn more fat than carbohydrates)

Interval Training

Interval training falls under the second exercise method. It is for those who like speed and look for the fastest method to get fit. Interval training is not a new concept. Dr. Woldemer Gerschler of Germany conceptualized this method of training in 1930. For decades, athletes and bodybuilders use it as a training tool in order to derive immense performance-enhancement benefits. For a higher level of fitness and fat burning, average exercisers evince keen interest in interval training because it helps in bigger increase in metabolism. Other benefits include:


  • A great way to induce fat loss

  • Aerobic and anaerobic systems are engaged

  • Results evident faster

  • Maximum result in minimum time

  • Helps improve speed and endurance level

  • Improves cardiovascular fitness

  • Muscles get to work harder

  • Improves repair rate of the body

  • Simple program keeps injury at bay

  • Simple way to avoid exercise boredom

  • Highly exciting and challenging

Principles of Interval training


In direct contrast to low intensity, long duration exercise, interval training is a high intensity workout followed by allotted intervals of less speed/less intensified workout. Interval training can be used in many type of physical activity regardless of the environment, irrespective of whether you are at home or at the gym. You can engage in any cardiovascular workout like stationary biking, running, rowing etc or other aerobic workout. You should provide a near-maximum exertion interspersed with periods of lower-intensity activity. The time interval is just enough for recovery, at the same time not too much to feel at rest. The process i.e. higher and lower intensity workout should be repeated several times so as to form a complete cycle. A simple example of interval training:

Walk, run - Combine sprint work with a walk retreating to the starting line Recumbent bike - Start at a low level and gain momentum at a high level

As such, there is no 'perfect, specific interval'. The ratio of work to rest interval varies from person to person. Only a systematic and regular interval-training workout with a bit of changes here and there, will suggest an acceptable norm. You can then develop your own interval training program.

In order to determine the intensity level, you need to closely monitor your heart rate, how strenuous or comfortable you feel. Once, you understand the optimum exertion level, it's easier to determine the lower intensity and the higher intensity level. It is always recommended to discuss with your health care provider to determine the comfortable and safe intensity level you can manage.

While engaging in a high intensity work, energy demands on the respiratory system, cardiovascular system and nervous system increase. As a result, more fat and glycogen are burned in order to support or enable the expanding energy demands of the body, both during and after intense exercise.

The slow workout and faster workouts that is part of interval training offers great advantages for improving cardiovascular health and burning more calories. Other health benefits include weight loss and lowered risk for diabetes.


Interval training for all

This kind of a workout with steep peaks and valleys can immensely benefit asthma sufferers. Even otherwise, interval training is suitable for almost everyone who enjoys stable, good health. Once or twice a week workout should be sufficient. In a matter of weeks, the results are evident. As a matter of precaution, those who are above 40 years of age or those who have a record of chronic health conditions should consult a health care provider before embarking on a new fitness regimen. After due consultations, you can control the variables of intensity, speed as well as duration.

People with low fitness levels can follow a moderate interval alternated with low intensity exercises. With regard to people with heart disease or high blood pressure, or those with joint problems such as arthritis or anyone older than 60, it is advisable to consult a doctor before starting interval training.


Do not over train

A complete, effective weekly workout should include continuous training as well as interval training methods. For maximum results, any form of exercise should be performed in an exact manner, consciously avoiding over training. Two common risks associated with regular interval training program are:


  • Tendency to over-train

  • A high potential for injury.
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