Interval Training: The Best Exercise Routine?

The latest research shows that less really could really be more when it comes to exercise. Shorter workouts with brief spurts of heavy activity just might be the best way to boost metabolism, promote heart health and repel diabetes. So when it comes to overall fitness and weight loss, the most effective exercise routine could involve less time (but a bit more strategy) than we previously thought. Remember though, if weight loss and great health are your goals you will still need to eat healthy food no matter what your exercise plan.

A new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology shows that people of all fitness levels had better improvement in strength and endurance, along with more efficient oxygen use, when they engaged in short but intense bursts of physical activity instead of sustained exertion.  Researcher Jan Helgerud told the Telegraph that intervals are twice as effective than regular exercise, and said that you should run for 4 minutes, recover for 3 minutes and repeat for a total workout time of 20 minutes. She added that you should be a bit winded at the end of each spurt, but you shouldn’t push yourself to exhaustion.

This is pretty awesome news if you want to avoid hours of exercise, but don’t get too excited. We definitely need more research before we can say for certain that intervals are better for overall health than a sustained, steady pace. However, Olympic athletes have been training this way for years, so it’s hard to dispute effectiveness. That 20 minutes may need to increase over time though, as you build endurance.

So should you apply interval training to your own exercise regimen? Well, the bottom line is that if you love your current routine than stick with it. That said, if you’re tired of pushing yourself for an hour on the treadmill, than stop torturing yourself and start experimenting with intervals next time you hit the gym. If you’re an exercise newbie, Start with a slow gait or cycle, and then push yourself for a minute or two at a rapid pace that feels like work but isn’t overwhelming. Then go back to an easier walk for a few minutes, and repeat.

(featured image by lululemonathletica)

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