Research shows that interval training helps burn more calories faster than steady-state cardio.
Interval training -- alternating between high-intensity and low-intensity exercises – has many benefits for most people.
“You get the same biochemical muscle changes, improved athletic performance, burn more calories overall, and increase your VO2 max -- maximal oxygen uptake -- for a fraction of the time you would spend doing steady state cardio," said fitness expert Mario Godiva Green.
Interval training at a high intensity "stirs the pot in your body much more so your body releases more hormones that burn fat,” he adds.
Interval training is easier on the joints than steady cardio because you’re not pounding the pavement for too long. “Each foot spends less time on the ground,” said Green.
Variation is another bonus. Interval training can be done on a bike, elliptical trainer or treadmill. Or with body-weight squats, pushups, lunges and/or planks.
A debate surrounds the benefits of interval training versus those of steady-state cardio. Green said steady-state cardio burns more fat calories per minute, but high intensity interval training burns more calories overall.
Interval Training Formats:
If you’re new at working out, spend a few weeks building your stamina with cardio workouts before adding interval training to your routine, said Green.
For beginners, Green recommends a 30/90 ratio, or 30 seconds of high-intensity activity followed by a 90-second active rest recovery.
Gradually, drop the recovery rest to a 30/60 ratio. The most advanced ratio is 30/30.
Start with six sets and build up to 12 sets. “Interval training is about intensity and not endurance. Don't be discouraged if you can't get through a full workout,” said Green.
And remember that interval training isn’t for everyone, especially for those with heart conditions.
Intensity: 1-10 scale:
“1 is practically standing still, 5 is a slight jog, and 10 is like running from a wild tiger,” said Green. Beginners should start at 8 or 8.5.
Learn how to differentiate between pushing hard and overexerting, said Green. “Don’t overdo it.” At the end of the 30 seconds, you should feel nearly winded.
Green’s High Intensity Interval Training Cardio Workouts For Beginners: repeat each exercise five times
Warm-up first: Jog for five minutes, then do some light stretching.
1. High Knees:
With your chest out and shoulders back, pump your arms from the shoulder and alternate bringing one knee up your waist as fast as you possibly can for 30 seconds -- staying and landing on your toes.
For the 90-second recovery, stop completely or continue at a slower pace
2. Stationary Bike:
Start pedaling at intensity five: you should be “sweating and breathing harder but not panting.”
Then increase the resistance as high as you can handle and sprint as hard for as long as you can for up to 30 seconds, at a level 10.
Slow down for 90 seconds.
“It's important when sprinting that you are on your toes and pumping your arms from the shoulder to help propel you through your sprint,” said Green.
Sprint for 30 seconds then walk or do a light jog for 90 seconds. Try to push yourself a little more each time you repeat the cycle.