What Is Interval Training? Benefits, Risks, And How To Do Short Bursts Of Exercise


A new study highlights high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, as key in slowing the aging process on the cellular level. This form of exercise has been seen to help cells create more proteins to feed their mitochondria, or their own energy-producing powerhouse.

“These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine,” said senior author and Mayo Clinic diabetes researcher Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, his team finding that younger subjects in the HIIT group had a 49 percent rise in mitochondrial ability, while older ones had a more astounding 69 percent increase.

But what is interval training, and how can it be done?

Interval Training Benefits

Through intense periods of exercise with short recovery periods, interval training offers maximum intensity without one losing his or her exercise form.

The Mayo Clinic lists the various benefits of interval training:

Calorie burning, since the exercise is based on level of vigor instead of actual length. More calories are burned even for a few minutes of exercising at home.

Improved aerobic capacity, where one is able to exercise longer or with greater intensity as he or she improved cardiovascular fitness.

Variety and fun, where boredom is kept at bay as short intervals allow increased variety to the exercise routine.

No special equipment needed, because all it takes is modifying one’s current routine.

HIIT especially assists in keeping the body’s fat-burning capability even after one leaves the gym. During this workout, the body is unable to move enough energy to the muscles during the “hard work,” so muscles accumulate oxygen debt that must be repaid after workout to return to normal.

In a phenomenon called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, one’s metabolism is on high for hours after the workout. One can reap its benefits through regular short yet intense bouts of exercise with periods of rest in between.

Intense circuit training also stimulate muscle-building hormones such as growth hormone and IGF-1, putting the body in a perfect state for building lean mass.

Potential Risks And Reminders

An interval training routing involves warm-up, increasing one’s intensity for 30 seconds, and then returning to normal pace. The next phase of more intense activity may last two to three minutes, and the pace, length, and frequency all depend on the individual.

Here’s a sample workout called Cardio Blaster from exercise physiologist Dr. Jason Karp:

1. Warm up for 15 minutes.
2. Run, bike, or row for 3 minutes at 90 to 95 percent of maximum heart rate. This should feel like 8.5 to 9 on a scale of 1 to 10.
3. Spend 3 minutes in active recovery, or moving but at an easy pace.
4. Repeat the 3 on, 3 off pattern up to 4 times.
5. Cool down for 10 minutes.

When doing interval workout, the focus should be on challenging movements that “awaken” the entire body in a single routine. Strive for at least two exercises before letting the body recover. Make sure to catch your breath in between, but do not fully recover before the next set is ready.

It is crucial to note that interval training may not be for everyone. Consult your doctor if you have a chronic medical condition or have not been exercising regularly.

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