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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Exercise Smarter with Interval Training

Interval training is the practice of alternating short bursts of high intensity activity with longer periods of lower intensity exercise that allow muscles to recover. Like biking up and over the George Washington Bridge.

It's a smarter way to exercise because research studies show that interval training increases exercise capacity and stimulates the body to burn more fat.

Changing intensity can involve altering the speed, resistance, or incline of an activity. And it can be incorporated into almost any exercise: walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing, and even strength training.

To incorporate interval training into your routine:

  • Add one high-intensity interval of 30 seconds to your usual workout and make it an all-out effort. You should feel a burning sensation in your muscles and it should leave you out of breath. 
  • Before and after high-intensity intervals, exercise at moderate intensity. Do not allow your heart rate to return to a resting rate. 
  • Space high-intensity intervals at least 4 minutes apart and allow at least 2 days between sessions of interval training.
  • Gradually increase the number and duration of high-intensity intervals during exercise, working your way up to 3 high-intensity intervals of 1 to 4 minutes each, 3 times per week.

If you don't exercise regularly or if you only exercise at low intensity, talk to your doctor before you start interval training. And if you ever experience chest pain or feel light-headed or short of breath, during interval training or otherwise, stop exercising, rest, and make an appointment to discuss it with your doctor. 


Burgomaster K.A., Hughes S.C., Heigenhauser G.J., Bradwell S.N., and Gibala M.J. 2005. Six sessions of sprint interval training increases muscle oxidative potential and cycle endurance capacity in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology 98(6):1985-90.

Talanian J.L., Galloway S.D., Heigenhauser G.J., Bonen A., and Spriet L.L. 2007. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Journal of Applied Psychology 102(4):1439-47.

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