Do you do interval training? If not, you should. There are loads of benefits of interval training – it’s simply the best way to lose fat, and get in shape…fast.
What is Interval Training?
Interval training is any exercise in which you alternate periods of high intensity work, which is defined here as a pace of work you can’t continue for more than 30 seconds, followed by a period of low intensity work to allow your body to recuperate and prepare for another high intensity ‘interval.’
An interval workout can be performed on traditional cardio machines such as an elliptical machine, treadmill, rowing machine, or stationary bike.
An interval workout can also take the form of a weight training circuit where many exercises are performed in a row. The lifting portion is the high intensity interval and the rest period is the recuperative/low intensity interval.
The bottom line is this: Unless you are expressly barred from performing interval-style training for medical reasons, you should be doing interval work to burn fat, build muscle, and achieve your fitness goals.
Why You Should Try Interval Training
1. You’ll Get in Shape, Faster
The ability to put on muscle, increase endurance, increase flexibility… increase anything fitness related, really, depends on your ability to increase the frequency/volume of training.
Interval work increases your body’s tolerance to work, and according to a study published in the Journal of Physiology, similar bodily adaptations were seen between a group of moderate-intensity exercisers and a group of interval-style exercisers, despite the fact that the interval exercise group performed roughly 90% less total work.
Improving work capacity is vital in working towards your goals, and the fastest and most efficient way to do so is with interval training.
2. You Won’t Get Bored During Your Workout
Steady state cardio (also known as “boring” cardio) burns calories less effectively for your fat-loss goals than interval work.
In a study conducted at the University New South Wales in Australia, an interval training group was compared to steady state (think of a medium-to-slow paced jog) training group, and the interval training group demonstrated marked reductions in ‘total body mass, fat mass, trunk fat and fasting plasma insulin levels’ whereas the steady state group did not.
This study compared women, though similar results were obtained in a study using male subjects.
Conclusion here: As long as you don’t have a medical condition that contraindicates interval work, steady-state cardio should be limited and take a back seat to interval-style cardio (again barring a few circumstances dictating otherwise: for example you’re doing the cardio as recovery work, you have an injury, your doctor has not cleared you to do rigorous exercise, and a few more. Just be safe).
Related: 7 Ways to Get Motivated to Exercise
3. You’ll Spend Less Time in the Gym
The inverse relationship of intensity to time is the underlying theme here. The harder you work, the sooner you will physically exhaust.
By ramping up the intensity using interval work, not only are you increasing the efficiency of your fat burning/muscle building, but you’re also freeing up time to do other activities you enjoy like yoga, cooking dinner, or picking up a new hobby. It’s your time and you can use it however you’d like. This is a true win/win.
4. You’ll Become Mentally Tough
Do you have the guts to perform hard intervals? If you’re not sure but you steam through an interval workout, guess what? You just gained toughness points.
These moments of determination carry over to all areas of life. Not only will interval training get you in great shape, you’ll also build confidence and mental toughness.
There is a psychological component to a tough workout. Pushing past your limits can build strength in both your body and your mind.
Interval work doesn’t just build a tougher body, it builds a tougher you.
Incorporating interval training is a smart step towards getting in great shape and achieving your fitness goals. Take advantage of the health benefits of interval training and see how big of a difference intervals can make in your success.
Brian Haimes is a certified Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine and obtained his Bachelor’s in Exercise and Sport Science from UNC-Chapel Hill. His passions lie in the creative pursuit of fitness and well being for optimal life enjoyment.
Featured photo by Josiah Mackenzie
Originally posted 11/2013 and updated 11/2014.