Sure, intervals are a great way to ease into a more difficult exercise program or learn to run. But the reason we prioritize interval training in MOTR is so much more than that! Below is an article I wrote for a local paper last year on the many benefits of intervals.
Interval Training: a faster way to burn fat
What’s all this buzz about interval training? Is it really the best way to lose weight? There is an impressive amount of research out there now that says YES! Study after study shows that cardio workouts with speed intervals are much more effective at burning fat than workouts done at a steady pace. One recent study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found an interval workout regime to burn 36% more fat than steady state cardio work in the same amount of time, and other studies have produced even higher numbers – some showing up to 9 times the amount of fat loss.
So what exactly is interval training? Mayoclinic.com defines it as simply alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity. Interval training is versatile because it can be incorporated as part of any exercise routine and can be accomplished through any method of movement.
The fat-burning magic of interval training is largely due to EPOC or “Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption” from a high-intensity workout. The body uses a lot more oxygen after a tough workout than it usually does at rest. The intensity of these workouts causes the energy stores in your muscles to become depleted, which causes the body to turn to stored fat for energy, and the extra oxygen available creates a favorable environment for fat-burning in the hours that follow your workout session. To put this in layman’s terms, your metabolic rate will be higher throughout the day – burning more fat even 36 hours after the workout.
The benefits of interval training go beyond fat-burning. Evidence is turning up that shows it improves cardiovascular health, decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes, improves sports performance and increases exercise adherence since it is perceived as being less boring.
An easy way to get started with an interval program is to try a 1:3 work recovery ratio. After a 5 minute walking warm-up, walk or jog at an intense pace that feels close to your maximum ability for one minute. Follow this with a three minute recovery, walking or jogging at a pace you can maintain. After 3-5 cycles finish with a 5 minute walking cool-down. Due to the intense nature of interval training it is advisable to consult with your physician before beginning this type of a program.