What’s the Deal with Interval Training?

You’ve no doubt seen the letters HIIT or that strange word Tabata sprinkled throughout your group exercise class schedule in recent months. What’s all the rage? In a word, interval training is efficient! If “I don’t have the time to exercise” has been your excuse or if you’ve fallen out of love with your current routine, High Intensity Interval Training might be just the thing for you. The workouts are short, intense, strengthen the heck out of your heart, and the calorie burning benefits last for hours. These kinds of workouts indeed can give you the most bang for your fitness buck. Intrigued? Read on…

By definition, interval workouts alternate high intensity bursts (anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes in duration) with lower intensity “active rest” movements, commonly in a 2:1 ratio. There is no specific formula, and the entire interval sequence can last anywhere from 5-30 minutes. Most classes will also offer a period of warm-up and cool-down. The benefits? Interval training can be a great way to get through a fitness plateau. The time requirement can be as little as a few minutes a day. The repeated rises and falls in heart rate strengthen your cardiovascular system and working at higher intensities increases your maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max). Athletic performance is boosted, resting metabolic rates rise, and glucose metabolism improves.

EPOC is another term tossed around as a benefit to interval training. Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption is otherwise known as “the afterburn”. If you want the science, I direct you to Wikipedia. What it boils down to is increased caloric burn for anywhere from 16-38 hours after your workout (depending on which study you read)! So not only do you burn more calories during you workout to fuel your increased demands, you will keep burning calories at an increased level for hours.

Is interval training for everybody? Well it can be in time, but because of the intensity we recommend that a certain baseline of cardiovascular fitness is established before pushing the threshold. Don’t just get off the couch after 30 years to go tear it up in a high intensity class. Once a baseline is established, do make sure to wear a heart rate monitor or become comfortable with pulse check during active rest times. But even if you are a beginner, your highest intensity doesn’t have to equal the person next to you. These kinds of programs can be adapted to suit your level of fitness.

One word of caution…watch out for trends in the fitness industry. There is certainly value in trying something new to shake up your routine and keep you motivated, especially when it is supported by science. But if you’re looking for the latest greatest tool that you think is THE answer to getting healthy, you are probably setting yourself up for disappointment and are less likely to stick with it. In the long run, consistent adherence to exercising, period yields the greatest benefit.

Interested in trying out interval training? Join us for INVIVO Intervals Thursdays at 7am with Kaila! Visit our website for more class details and to register.

Patricia Fasciotti is a Physical Therapist and Wellness Director at INVIVO. Patricia has spent over 10 years in the field of outpatient orthopedics. Most recently, Patricia completed her 200-hour certification to become a registered Yoga teacher (RYT). Patricia lives in Brookfield with her husband and two children. She enjoys running, yoga, pilates, and exploring all that Milwaukee has to offer!