You want the maximum benefits from your workouts, don't you? Of course, who wouldn't? What if there was a way you could burn more fat, build muscle mass faster and do it all in less time? Sounds as believable as a commercial for a fat-blasting pill, doesn't it? But, unlike those commercials, this has reputable research backing it up. What is it? It's interval training.

What is interval training? It is short bursts of high-intensity exercise which is then followed by longer periods of lighter exercise. How can it benefit you? There are four advantages to interval workouts:

1. Improves the body's ability to use oxygen. This results in burning more calories.

2. Can exercise for less time but achieve greater benefits

3. Increases production of human growth hormone. This not only promotes fat burning ability but also promotes the building of muscle

4. Increases post exercise fat and calorie burn, even when at rest. The effects can last for 24 hours

Dr. Mark Hyman, in his book Ultra-Metabolism says about interval training, "On the positive side, very intense exercise is time-efficient and more effective for weight loss than regular aerobic exercise is. You need to do it only two to three days a week and you can do it for shorter periods of time. It has the same health benefits as regular aerobic exercise, maybe more. It leads to greater fat loss."

Dr. Hyman isn't the only one touting the benefits of interval training; other researchers have reached similar conclusions, too. A report published in Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise studied a group of overweight women. The women were divided into two groups; one group trained using high intensity intervals, which involved two minutes of intense effort alternating with three minutes at a lower level. The other group exercised at a steady pace. Session lengths were designed so each group burned 300 calories per session. The fitness level of the interval group increased by 13%; the other group showed no improvements. The research team noted, "...even if caloric expenditure during exercise is equal, higher intensity exercise may further aid in weight loss due to an acute increase in energy expenditure up to 24 hours following exercise."

Researchers from the University of Alabama also found that 24-hour energy expenditure was greater with interval training; 160 calories greater.

In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers at McMaster University in Canada recruited twenty healthy men and women, all averaging the age of 23. Participants all rode stationery bikes but one group exercised five days a week, doing 40 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity cycling, while the other group did four to six sets of 30-second sprints, with 4.5 minutes of recovery time between sets; totaling exercise time of about 15 to 25 minutes three times a week. After six weeks, the group doing the interval training improved the structure and function of their arteries as much as the longer endurance exercises.

The Journal of Applied Physiology published a study by Jason Talanian, a PhD student in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences. The study was conducted on eight subjects, including moderately fit women in their 20's, borderline sedentary subjects and an active soccer player. Riding stationery bikes, they trained every other day for two weeks. They alternated 10 sets of four-minute bursts with two-minute rest intervals. After interval training, they experienced an increase in fat used and in aerobic capacity.

Canadian researchers at Laval University compared regular endurance training to interval training. The endurance training group worked out for a longer period of time, exercised longer for each period, had more work out sessions and burned twice as many calories during individual exercise periods as the interval group. Yet, the interval group reduced their body fat nine times more than the endurance group. Because interval training increased their resting metabolic rate, they burned more calories at rest than the endurance training group did.

How can you get started with interval training? First, always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Dr. Hyman gives us sample workouts:

Beginner (for someone who can walk for 30 minutes at 3.5 mph)

1. Warm-up: 5 minutes of walking at 3.5 mph

2. Speed up and walk at 4 mph for 60 seconds

3. Slow down and stroll at 3 mph for 75 seconds

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 five more times

5. Finish with 5 minutes of walking at a comfortable pace to cool down

Advanced Interval Training Program

1. Warm-up: 5 minutes of jogging or cycling at the lowest possible percentage of your all-out effort

2. Run or cycle for 60 seconds at about 80 to 90 percent of your all-out effort. Your leg muscles should fatigue in about 1 minute.

3. Slow down to 50 percent of your all-out effort for 75 seconds (Make sure you slow down to this light pace)

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 five more times

5. Finish with five minutes at 30 percent of your all-out effort to cool down

Give interval training a try and see if it puts you closer to your fitness goals.

Author's Bio: 

Lynn Smith is a health and weight loss coach and co-founder of Health Coach Team. Health Coach Team offers individual and group coaching on health and weight loss, teleseminars, articles and resources to support women in losing weight and gaining health and energy. Lynn has co-authored "The YES Diet: A New System for Permanent Weight Loss," a no-hype approach to permanently reaching your weight-loss goals.
Join Lynn on September 9, 2009 for a free teleseminar entitled "4 Weight Loss Mistakes Women Make and How to Avoid Them." Register at