A new study, from scientists at Canada's McMaster University, shows that is it possible to get more out of your workout by doing less. The research which appears in a recent issue of The Journal of Physiology is the latest, but not the first, study that supports the value of a time-efficient exercise technique called high intensity interval training (HIT). High intensity interval training is a special way of exercising that involves bursts of high intensity work alternated with periods of rest or low activity. HIT has been practiced for years by long distance runners, sprinters, football players and other athletes looking to boost their performance. What makes this study unique is the notion that HIT is not just for athletes it is also a perfect way for the average person who has very little time for exercise to finally get into shape.
The research team, lead by Dr. Martin Gibala, professor and chair of the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University, has discovered, the “high intensity” portion of the HIT does not have to be punishing in order to be effective. What they found is that subjects who engaged in this kinder, gentler form of interval training benefited from improved endurance as well as a reduced risk of diseases normally associated with a sedentary lifestyle such as Type 2 diabetes.
Previous HIT research has focused on elite athletes performing grueling high intensity bouts on specialized equipment. This was a problem because, according to Dr. Gibala, “This type of training is extremely demanding” and “may not be safe or practical for some individuals.” This new study involved short exercise sessions of just 20-25 minutes on a standard stationary bicycle. Subjects were asked to perform a series of one minute high intensity bouts at about half their maximal effort followed by a 75 second low intensity recovery.
"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," says Gibala "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." What Gibala wants to do next is to study how interval training might benefit the obese, middle-aged and elderly populations who are non-traditional exercisers.