Interval Training: The Most Effective Form of Exercise

Posted on 4/25/2013 by Dr. Adrian den Boer
Categories: exercise, heart disease

Spring is here, and it's time to get ready to get moving! In the busy world we live in, most people wonder, "How do I get there the quickest way?"

Why not utilize what works for professional athletes and apply it to a degree that’s safe for you?  
Interval training is the fastest way to get in shape, and is a key component to professional athletes’ training,
This form of training, which includes a number of short bursts of intense exercise with short recovery breaks in between, has been shown numerous times to be an incredibly effective and beneficial form of exercise.
For instance, a study done at Canada’s McMaster University proves: “Doing 10 one-minute sprints on a standard stationary bike with about one minute of rest in between, three times a week, works as well as improving muscle as many hours of conventional long-term biking less strenuously” (Little, Safdar, Wilkin, Tarnopolsky & Gibala, 2010).
The Benefits of Interval Training
Beyond saving time with interval training, this form of exercise also has incredible health benefits.
It increases endorphins and improves mood, metabolism and muscle; improves brain function, slows aging, and improves cardiovascular function (Zuhl & Kravitz, 2012).
Interval training has even been shown to have immediate effects on our genetic expression by putting us in an anti-inflammatory mode (Kaliman, et. al, 2011).
How to Perform Interval Training
Whether you’re age 12 or 92, this form of training can be done at your own pace.
If all you can do is walk, for instance, there’s no reason why you can't walk significantly faster for 20 seconds, and then go into recovery walking for 1 minute, and then repeat. You can easily make a 15-minute walk the equivalent of a 45-minute walk! The same format can be applied to biking, swimming or jogging.
When jogging, it is important to complete at least four 200-meter sprints at maximum intensity during your run, with appropriate recovery time in between.
In general, it is ideal to perform three days of cardiovascular exercise and two days of strength training each week, whether with free weights, kettle bells or elastic bands.
Ideally, one of your workouts each week should include all-out sprints to reach your absolute maximum heart rate. For the other days, make sure to vary exercise intensity during your workout. 
If you struggle to find time to workout, I’ve posted this 10-minute total body workout on YouTube that can be done one to three times per week. 
Exercise: More is Not Better
Though everyone may be at a different level of exercise ability, more is not always better. If your body is under a lot of stress from work, supporting your children, etc., training for a marathon will be more harmful than helpful to your health.
Therefore, it’s important to exercise appropriately for your stress load. The higher your stress load, the shorter but more intense your workouts should be. The luxury of long, intense workouts can only be done when the body is unstressed in most areas of life. 
By embracing the power and benefits of interval training, you’ll be ready for summer in no time, but more importantly, healthier in the long run!
Jonathan P Little, Adeel S Safdar, Geoffrey P Wilkin, Mark a Tarnopolsky, and Martin J Gibala. A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms. The Journal of Physiology, 2010; DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2009.181743
Kaliman, Perla, Marcelina, Parrizas, Lalanza, Jaurne F., Camins, Antoni, Escorhuela, Rosa Maria, Pallas, Merce. Neurophysiological and epigenetic effects of physical exercise on the aging process. Ageing Research Reviews, Volume 10, Issue 4, September 2011, Pages 475-486.
Zuhl, Micah and Len Kravitz. HIIT VS. Continuous Endurance Training: Battle of the Aerobic Titans. IDEA Fitness Journal. February 2012.