Interval Training for Health and Wellness

runningWhether you are looking to loose weight, improve your cardiovascular health, or build aerobic endurance, interval training may be a good place for you to start.

Note: If you have never exercised before, or if you have heart disease, asthma, COPD, or another medical condition, you should consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

What is Interval Training?

Interval training is simply alternating quick bursts of high intensity activity with intervals of light activity or rest. Interval training is an easy way to get in an effective work out in a short amount of time and there are many ways to individualize and modify a regimen depending on your fitness level. If you are already very fit, this might look like incorporating sprints into your jogging routine. Or you might incorporate a slow jog into a walk. Or if you are less fit, you can start by incorporating intervals of fast walking into a slow walk.

What are the potential benefits?

  • Increased weight loss
  • Improved aerobic capacity and endurance
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Improved function of the heart

Exercising intensely for even short periods of time encourages your body to burn more calories. Studies also show that short bursts of high intensity exercise are more effective at promoting endurance than prolonged periods of medium intensity exercise.

Tips for a successful work out

  • Know your target heart rate – For most people the target heart rate is 50-85% of their calculated maximal heart rate. The maximal heart rate is calculated from the formula: (220-Your Age). It is helpful to use a heart rate monitor during exercise to see if you are in your optimal and safe target heart rate range.
  • Warm up first – Before beginning an interval work out, warm up your joints and muscle with circular movements, jumping jacks, or a slow jog.
  • Start slow – Exercise intensely for 20 seconds and then slow down for 40-60 seconds to recover. You will know that you have hit your peak exercise intensity when your breathing becomes faster and it is challenging to speak in complete sentences. As you become more fit you can increase your intervals of high intensity activity but keep them short, ideally 20-60 seconds per interval. If you feel you need a harder work out, you can also add light weights but make sure that you do so safely.
  • Increase your repetitions to build endurance – Start your exercise program doing as many repetitions as you comfortably can and then try to beat this the next time. Increasing your number of repetitions will help increase your aerobic endurance.
  • Take time to rest – Interval training is best done 2 to 3 times per week, but not on consecutive days. Giving your body breaks will give it time to adequately recover so you’ll be ready for the next work out.

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