Interval Exercise Boosts Fitness
Don't Sweat It
How It Works continued...
According to the American Council of Exercise (www.acefitness.org), interval
training may allow you to enjoy the benefits of anaerobic exercise without the
burning muscles. It involves alternating high-intensity and lower-intensity
exercise within a single workout. The Swedes have given it the name
fartlek, which means, "speed play."
In the Laval University study, for example, participants
alternated between 3 minutes of moderate-intensity step aerobics and 1 minute
of high-intensity stepping, repeating the cycle eight to ten times.
According to Wayne L. Westcott, PhD, fitness research director
at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, interval training is
"absolutely the best" for both beginners and high-end athletes.
"High-end athletes all train that way," he says. "It's not
necessarily the easiest, but it is the best."
Heart and Mind Benefit
"The most important phase of exercise for heart
health," Westcott explains, "is immediately after the bout of exercise
-- the recovery period. In interval training, you get multiple recovery periods
[as you switch to low-intensity bouts] and thus an enhanced heart
Another important advantage of interval training is that it can
help combat boredom. "Go into the standard gym," Westcott says:
"Everyone is walking on treadmills or riding exercise bikes. Although these
are expensive machines with readouts of every kind, usually the dials are
covered by a towel or newspaper. The exercisers don't want to know how much
longer they have or how much farther they need to go. They are bored."
Contrast this, he says, with getting on the bike and setting it
for the first 5 warmup minutes at 50 watts, then jumping to 4 minutes at 125
watts. "That's 4, not 30," he emphasizes. "It's hard but you can do
For the next 4 minutes, dial down to 75 watts. "Suddenly,
this seems easy, almost fun," Westcott exclaims. "You start enjoying
it, instead of waiting for it to be over." Then back to 125 watts! "You
should do three sets of the 125, 75, then a cool-down of 50 watts."
Boost Your Immune System
How do you decide your maximum? "Most people exercise at
70% of their maximum heart rate," Westcott says. "You can use the talk
test: At maximum, all-out effort, you should not be able to talk except to say
yes or no. At mid-effort, you could probably utter a sentence or two. And at
low, effort, you should be able to hold a conversation."