Norwegian researchers reported findings that high-intensity interval training improves every measure of heart function and heart strength. It can also prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome, a known precursor to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. (Exercise and Sports Sciences Reviews, July 2009).
Interval training is a cardoivascular training technique where you alternate high and low levels of activity. For instance, if you walk for exercise you would increase your pace to a brisk walk or a slow jog for one to two minutes then slow down to your normal pace until you catch your breath and then speed back up. On a bike or a treadmill the principle is the same, increase your effort for a brief period then catch your breath and repeat.
While you won’t lose any more weight with interval training the study lists several benefits.
- Increased oxygen absorption rates, 35% in the high intensity group compared to 16% in the moderate intensity group.
- Reduced blood pressure.
- Higher cardiovascular endurance.
- More calories burned in a shorter time.
- Less boring than regular cardio.
- Stronger heart muscle.
- Your work outs get the same results in less time.
This reminded me of the work outs my high school track coach had us do. We would do “154’s”, which was a 3/4 mile lap around the field with a 154 yard sprint at the end. We would then walk about 50 yards to catch our breath and start running again.
The idea was to train us for a burst of speed at the end of a race. It worked,at least one of our 3 track teams won the league championship.If we didn’t win we were a close second. The heart benefits weren’t even a concern for high school athletes.
Then there was Mr. Averitt, our honorary coach.He took the team on Sat.field trips, to run on hills for a different more intense run. He was in his mid to late 60’s and kept up with all but the fastest of us. That says a lot about the benefits of interval training.
Protect your heart, try to work interval training into your schedule two or three times a week. But check with your doctor first, make sure you have the basic conditioning before you start a new exercise program.