Train Hard for Less Time for Same Health Effect

Researchers who have been studying interval training have found that it not only takes less time than what is typically recommended, but the regimen does not have to be “all out” to be effective in helping reduce the risk of such diseases at Type 2 diabetes.

“What we’ve been able to show is that interval training does not have to be ‘all out’ in order to be effective and time-efficient,” Martin Gibala, professor and chair of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University, said in a news release. “While still a very demanding form of training, the exercise might be more achievable by the general public — not just elite athletes — and it certainly doesn’t require the use of specialized laboratory equipment.”

Since Gibala’s first study on interval training was published 5 years ago, a growing body of research has zeroed in on this particular style of exercise in which you train hard but for less time.

Previous research by the McMaster group involved 30 seconds of maximal pedaling on a special bike followed by 4 minutes of recovery, and repeated 4 to 6 times. The new study involves eight to 12 1-minute bouts of exercise on a standard stationary bicycle at a relatively lower intensity with rest intervals of 75 seconds, for a total of 20 to 25 minutes per session. The workload was still above most people’s comfort zone — about 95% of maximal heart rate — but only about half of what can be achieved when people sprint at an all-out pace.

“That is the trade-off for the relatively lower intensity,” Gibala said. “There is no free lunch; duration must increase as intensity decreases.”

While the total amount of exercise performed was higher than in Gibala’s previous interval training studies, the overall time commitment was still lower than what is typically recommended by public health agencies.

Participants used in the study performed six training sessions during 14 days. After the 2-week training period, the subjects showed the same benefits that Gibala’s team has previously observed after traditional, long-duration endurance training: improved exercise performance and muscular adaptations that are linked to reduced risk of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.

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