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A New Rhythm

By James Broida
Posted On Apr 30, 2012

A steady pace may win the race, but it’s not the best way to burn calories, lose weight and get fit. For that, you must embrace the new buzz in exercise: interval training.

By: Emily Listfield

You’ve heard the promises before. Lose weight in less time. Get fit faster. And yes, the claims are bogus more often than not. Now, however, new research is proving that there really is a way to burn more calories, improve overall cardiovascular fitness, and melt fat (including the most stubborn and dangerous type—abdominal fat) in less time.

The secret is interval training, which combines short, high intensity bursts of speed with slow recovery phases. It sounds simple, and it is, adaptable to almost any cardiovascular routine. For example, if you are using a treadmill, you might run all out for 30 seconds, followed by walking for 30 seconds. Then just repeat that sequence for twenty minutes.

Though serious athletes have used the technique for years, it is now proving to be one of the most effective strategies for the rest of us as well. “Research suggests that a workout with challenging intervals can dramatically improve cardiovascular fitness and raise the body’s potential to burn fat,” explains Caroline Jordan, group fitness instructor at Equinox gym in San Francisco. “High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is great for exercisers who to want build speed, endurance, or lose weight. It is a serious time saver, butt buster, and calorie killer.”

Better Results, Less Time

For years, standard thinking has been that the best way to get in shape is long sustained cardio workouts. The problem is that spending 45 minutes on a treadmill or an elliptical trainer is not only time consuming, but also can be, let’s face it, downright boring. Now, research shows it is also not necessary. “According to the American College of Sports Medicine, more calories are burned during short, high intensity exercise,” Jordan points out. “It can cause metabolic adaptations in the body that enable you to use more fat as fuel under a variety of conditions. This improves athletic endurance as well as your potential to burn more fat in your daily life 24-7.”

A number of research reports are backing up the claims. A new study by Stephen H. Boutcher, from the School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, was recently published in The Journal of Obesity. In it, Boutcher found, “Most exercise protocols designed to induce fat loss have focused on regular steady-state exercise such as walking and jogging at a moderate intensity. Disappointingly, these kinds of protocols have led to negligible weight loss.”

What Boutcher found instead was a growing body of evidence suggesting that interval training—what he calls “high-intensity intermittent exercise” or HIIE—can be an economical and effective exercise technique for reducing fat in overweight individuals. Not only does it produce significant increases in aerobic and anaerobic fitness, it also has a dramatic and lasting effect on insulin sensitivity, that key measure of our body’s ability to burn sugar, rather than store it as fat.

Boutcher, a seminal researcher in the field, told New You that: “The calories used up by 20 minutes of HIIE is equal to about 40 minutes of moderately hard aerobic exercise.” The study found that interval training was particularly effective at reducing belly fat—which is not only unseemly (hello, muffin tops) but can lead to diseases such as diabetes.

How to Get Started

Interval training can be adapted to almost any workout, from running to a stationary bike, and can be modified to be low-impact (it also requires no special equipment!) “Interval training can be used in any sport from cycling and swimming to walking or dance,” Jordan says. “The best part is you’ll never get bored because there are endless combinations and intensity levels to mix it up with.”

The only caveat is to work in your new routine gradually. Make sure to challenge yourself, but always listen to your body and back off if you feel sick. Remember, all interval training workouts can be toned down—or intensified—to meet your fitness needs.


Exclusive 20-Minute Interval Training Workout

Caroline Jordan devised this interval workout challenge for New
You. It should be performed no more than 2-3 times per week.
Make sure to allow at least one day of cross training or recovery
between workouts. It can be done on a treadmill, an elliptical
trainer, or in the field—or even adapted to swimming.

• 3–5 minutes warm-up
• 30 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
• 45 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
• 60 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
• 90 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
• 60 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
• 45 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
• 30 seconds high intensity
• 3–5 minutes cool-down

 

FINISH! Take time to stretch and foam roll. Spend at least 5 minutes stretching your muscles.