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High-intensity interval training is twice as effective as regular exercise

Sunday, May 23, 2010 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: interval training, exercise, health news

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(NaturalNews) Recent research is indicating that traditional approaches to exercise that involve spending hours in the gym every day may not be the best way to stay strong and healthy. Interval training, a high-intensity type of workout that was originally created for Olympic athletes, may actually be twice as effective as regular exercise, and it can be done in a fraction of the time.

Most people are familiar with workout regimens that claim to build strength and endurance in mere minutes a day. Though seemingly deceptive, there may be more truth to such claims than one would have originally thought, depending on the technique. A few minutes of strenuous exercise a couple days out of the week is actually more effective than spending an hour or two every day in the gym.

According to Jan Helgerud, an exercise expert at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, interval training is far superior to traditional exercise. She believes that everyday people should aim to do four, four-minute workout sets with three-minute recovery times in between. In order to maximize results and achieve optimal muscle response, these sets should be intense and somewhat straining to the body.

While formerly thought to be too extreme for the average person, interval training is emerging as the exercise technique of choice among many experts, thanks to recent studies showing that common people stand to benefit from it. Part of this research includes evidence that interval training can double a person's endurance, improve their body's use of oxygen, and increase their speed and strength.

Officials in both the U.S. and the U.K. typically advise people to engage in roughly two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise a week in order to maintain proper weight and a healthy heart. Such recommendations, however, will do very little to improve fitness ability, strength, or endurance.

Adamson Nicholls, a 36-year-old martial arts enthusiast, explained in an interview that he was able to greatly improve his endurance by undertaking 45-minute interval training workouts once a week for six weeks. If he had been doing regular workouts, it would have taken him roughly three months to achieve the same outcome.

Stephen Bailey, a sports sciences expert at the University of Exeter, explained why better results can be achieved from interval training in a fraction of the time. "A lot of the [benefits] from exercise are due to a stress response. If you disturb your muscles, there's an imbalance created and your body will start signaling pathways that result in adjustments," he explained.

In other words, moderate workouts may be longer than interval workouts, but they do not push the body hard enough to elicit an effective muscle-building response. Short, high-intensity workouts actually convert existing muscle fibers into ones that absorb oxygen more efficiently and effectively, helping people to burn fat, build muscle, and improve overall strength.

Sources for this story include:

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