Serious athletes have long relied on an exercise technique known as "interval training"-alternating periods of intense (fast) physical activity with lighter (slow) activity-to improve their performance and endurance.
Latest development: A growing body of scientific evidence shows that interval training used in aerobic exercise-including walking, running, swimming, cycling or working out on exercise equipment/helps people of all fitness levels to optimize the health benefits of their workout routines, often within a matter of weeks.
In addition, I believe dividing workouts into three shorter sessions can boost the effectiveness of interval training further.
Specifically, interval training helps…
- Provide more cardiovascular benefit. Interval training enhances total oxygen consumption and physical fitness, leading to improved cardiovascular health.
- Burn more calories and body fat. Research shows that the rise in calorie-burning metabolic activity that occurs during exercise continues for 10 to 15 minutes after stopping. By doing three short workouts per day instead of one long workout, for example, you can gain 30 to 45 minutes of post-exercise calorie burning, instead of 10 to 15.
- Curb boredom. Interval training adds variety to your workouts. Studies show that people who break their daily exercise into several sessions look forward to exercising more and are more likely to stick to their exercise programs.
Design Your Own Program
As a rule of thumb, a good interval training program includes exercising four to six days weekly. On days that you don't perform interval training, do resistance-training (strength-training) exercises to maintain your overall physical conditioning.
Important: Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program—especially if you are over age 60 or have high blood pressure, heart disease and/or arthritis.
Here is a popular approach to interval training that can be adapted to any fitness level…
- Three-a-Day Workout. This workout is particularly recommended for beginning exercisers, people over age 65 and those who are exercising to lose weight. It consists of three interval-training sessions performed, for example, in the early morning, before lunch and in the late after noon--for a daily total of about 45 minutes.
Walkers/Runners: Warm up with three minutes of easy walking or jogging. Next, walk briskly or run at a moderate pace for four minutes...walk or jog slowly for two minutes...then walk briskly or run at a moderate pace for another four minutes. Finish with two minutes of easy walking (You'll be exercising at a moderate pace when you become a little breathless, and your exertion level is somewhat hard. However, if you can't talk easily while exercising, you're working too hard.)
Cyclists: Warm up with three minutes of easy cycling. Next, cycle at a moderate level of effort for four minutes...cycle at an easy pace for two minutes...then cycle at a moderate level for another four minutes. Finish with two minutes of easy cycling.
Exercising in a gym: Warm up with three minutes of walking or easy jogging. Next, exercise on a treadmill, exercise bike, elliptical trainer or rowing machine for four minutes at a moderate level of effort (equivalent to walking three miles per hour, or a 20-minute mile pace)...then walk or jog slowly around the gym or outside for two minutes. Switch to a different piece of equipment, and exercise for another four minutes at a moderate level of effort. Finish with two minutes of easy walking
Swimmers: Warm up with three minutes of easy swimming. Next, swim one length of the pool backyard or Olympic sized) at a moderate level of effort (becoming a little breathless)...then swim one length of the pool at a slow pace. Repeat this pattern twice, for a daily total of three times. Finish with two minutes of easy swimming.