Burn calories and lose weight faster using intervals

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends we get 150 minutes of exercise per week to improve your health both aerobically and anaerobically.  For some, weekly exercise might include aerobic activities such as walking, cycling or swimming. Others might do anaerobic exercises such as lifting weights, sprint training or running hills to get their weekly exercise.

Aerobic exercise uses oxygen to produce energy for the body and burns fat over the course of a long duration exercise while anaerobic exercise do not need oxygen to produce energy for the body, burning bodily “fuels” other than fat.  While doing some exercise is better than none at all, each of the above exercises only improves one aspect of your fitness.   Endurance activities are great for improving your aerobic activity but aren’t particularly effective in improving your anaerobic fitness.  Short duration exercises do the opposite – improving anaerobic fitness while aerobic fitness remains unaffected.

However, there is a way to improve both areas of your total fitness …interval training.

Interval training combines short, high intensity bursts of exercise with slower, recovery periods several times all in one exercise session.  This type of exercise mimics the starting, stopping, sprinting and jogging of sport to burn calories at a very high rate.  It combines aerobic and anaerobic methods of producing energy to efficiently increase your endurance and explosiveness.  The anaerobic portion of interval training (sprints or high-intensity runs) uses up the muscle’s immediate fuel source.  The aerobic portion then follows and serves as a recovery period for the body before the next intense anaerobic period.  It is during this period of recovery that oxygen is used to mobilize fat stores for energy use.

What are the benefits of combining aerobic and anaerobic exercise into a single workout?  Research has shown that a high intensity interval workout burns more calories than a long, slow endurance exercise.  Beyond looking good, interval training also helps improve heart and lung functioning, increased muscle strength in the lower legs (meaning greater speed) and improved endurance.

To begin your own interval training regimen, click here for ideas from exercise physiologist Jason Karp, PhD.

If you think you may not be ready for a full interval workout, a more relaxed version of the interval training method may suit you better.  Fartlek, a Swedish word meaning speed play, training is similar to interval training but is less rigid in its approach.  Rather than having exact times or distances for each interval, Fartlek training is based on the individual’s ability.  You listen to your body and sprint for as long as you can handle before you have to slow down to a jog.  Once you have “recovered” during your aerobic jog, you continue with another sprinting interval.

With either of these types of integrated exercise, you are sure to get a great workout, improve your fitness and feel great!

Photo credit music2fish2 (eric lanning)

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