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Interval Training Burns More Calories in Less Time

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Sprinting in the Lab continued...

The sprint interval workout went like this: After a two minute warm-up came 30 seconds during which each man had to pedal as hard and fast as he could against high resistance. Four minutes of relaxed riding followed. Then, he went all out for another half minute.

All told, the participants each did five bursts in which they pushed themselves to their limits. They each burned approximately 220 calories for their efforts.

Previous studies have shown that high-intensity interval training such as this can aid the heart, both in healthy people and in those already suffering from heart disease. But while its health benefits may be established, its effect on calories has been far from clear, according to the authors. This study provides preliminary evidence that this kind of exercise may help maintain a healthy weight and, potentially, help shed pounds.

Do Try This at Home -- With a Bit of Caution

Gillespie says that, like any workout, sprint interval training comes with caveats.

“Everybody’s 100% is different,” she says, so people should know their limits. “I want people to move, but I also want to prevent injury.”

She points out that interval training on a stationary bike is a low-impact exercise, which means it’s easier on the joints. People should be more cautious with higher impact exercises, like running, especially if they are overweight or obese.

Gillespie also cautions that no one should try to cram their workout into just a couple of minutes.

“You can’t sustain that high intensity for 2.5 minutes, and the rest period is just as important as the workout,” she says. “If you want, you can always check your email during those four minutes.”

When it comes to reaping the benefits of interval training, Sevits says people face some significant hurdles.

"The biggest barriers are the difficulty of this type of exercise and maintaining the commitment to do it," says Sevits.

He says that working with a personal trainer, who can encourage their clients to really push themselves, may be a way to go.

"That kind of coaching can be really motivating," he says.

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