While other types of training target certain market segments, interval training can deliver meaningful benefits across all segments, including:
- Elite athletes
- Amateur bodybuilders
- People rehabbing from injuries
- Beginners and moderately fit members
- People struggling with obesity
- Sedentary and aging individuals
- Chronic disease sufferers
Want proof? Check out five real-life examples, drawn from scientific research.
A group of more than 50 overweight and obese adolescents took part in a 12-week study. The goal was to compare the effects of interval training (4 x 4:00 intervals, twice a week for three months) versus exercise, diet and psychological advice. At the end of twelve weeks, the researchers concluded that the interval training sessions “reduced several known cardiovascular risk factors in obese adolescents more than those observed after a multitreatment strategy.” The adolescents who did interval training averaged a 7% reduction in subcutaneous fat, an 8% decrease in abdominal fat and a 7% gain in lean body mass.
FIGHTING HEART DISEASE
People with metabolic syndrome are three times more likely to die of heart disease. It’s known that exercise can help, but researchers wanted to find out which level of intensity yields the most benefits. They asked one group of metabolic syndrome patients to try continuous moderate exercise (CME) at 70% of their highest measured heart rate (Hfmax.) A second group performed interval training (4 x 4:00) at 90% Hfmax, three times a week for 16 weeks. The results of the study showed just how effective interval training can be as a health management tool.
Interval training participants outgained steady-state exercisers across a spectrum of benefits, including:
- Endothelial function
- Insulin signaling in fat and skeletal muscle
- Skeletal muscle biogenesis
- Excitation-contraction coupling
- Reduced blood glucose
- Reduced lipogenesis in adipose tissue
INCREASING AEROBIC CAPACITY
A greater peak oxygen uptake (VO2) usually corresponds to higher aerobic capacity. That’s because your ability to take in oxygen determines how much energy you can produce aerobically. In one study of VO2max, a group of healthy, nonsmoking college students was challenged to run 4 x 4:00 intervals (with 3:00 recovery), three times a week for eight weeks. Overall, they improved their aerobic capacity by an average of 7% — a significantly greater gain than that achieved by participants who did other types of training.
HELPING DIABETES SUFFERERS
When your body can’t respond to insulin correctly, your blood sugar level rises.8 A study sought to determine if certain kinds of exercise can improve insulin sensitivity. For eight weeks, a group of 16 Type 2 diabetic men engaged in an intensive training program: endurance exercise twice a week, plus once-a-week interval training (5 x 2:00 at 85% VO2max, with 3:00 recovery.) Results: the men achieved a 44% decrease in abdominal fat and a 58% improvement in insulin sensitivity.
COUNTERING THE EFFECTS OF AGING
Aging is known to cause decreases in VO2max and maximal tolerated power (MTP). Can interval training improve a senior individual’s aerobic capacity? To find out, a study looked at 19 women and 16 men, all of whom were non-smokers between 60 and 71 years old. The participants engaged in 30-minute interval training sessions—6 x 4:00 with 1:00 recovery—twice a week. At the end of nine weeks, researchers found these improvements:
- More than 14% higher VO2max
- 15.7%-22.1% more MTP
- 15.7%-22.1% better maximal minute ventilation (MMV)
- Significantly lower systolic blood pressure
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