The knowledge that we need to move more, that we live a sedentary lifestyle and we need to change that in order to age with health and happiness, is not new.
In fact, it’s been said so often that some may be inclined to ignore it – like an ear worm of a song you don’t like and are actively pushing into the background.
When you feel like you can’t seem to find time to breathe let alone raise your heart rate, and then see a ParticipACTION Report Card giving Canadian adults a ‘F’ for exercise level – which feels like a direct chiding from Hal Johnston and Joanne MacLeod - it can be tough to feel like you could ever do enough, to fit in enough for kids, for work, and for health.
That’s where interval training could help.
Imagine a workout that incorporates both cardio and muscle training, and takes less time than an episode of television?
Interval training is not a new phenomenon. Short bursts of higher-intensity exercise followed by brief periods of lower-intensity exercise or rest has been used by athletes for some time. But research is showing that despite what you might think of an exercise routine that doesn’t take very long, interval training can pack a punch.
In a 2017 study of data that was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers compared interval training to moderate-intensity continuous exercise, and what they found is simple – both forms of exercise were helpful in lowering body fat percentages, but the interval training provided a 28.5 per cent greater reduction in body weight than the continuous exercise.
And if you ask Martin Gibala, professor of Kinesiology at McMaster University, you can spend even less time focused on exercise than you thought.
He studied the effects of exercises for as little as a minute – that is, participants completed one minute of exercise, spread out into three 20 second intervals.
Along with warm up and cool down, as well as the short rest periods between intervals, the total time was 10 minutes. According to his work, three of these workouts per week yielded similar health benefits as 50 minutes of continuous exercise three times a week.
Like a snack size entry into your busy week.
If the idea of getting more workout in less time appeals to you, you have many options for home, and in Sudbury.
There are apps that you can download to monitor your time, to ensure you are training to the proper intervals, and plenty of suggestions for exercise. But the convenience of home could come at a higher price than a gym membership. The exercises need to be done quickly and constantly during the interval in order to benefit, and speed can come at the expense of technique and form; bad technique often equals injury.
Your best bet getting started is to visit a class first – to get a handle on the best exercises for you, as well as finding a qualified instructor who has enough time during each class to correct form. As well, you need to be honest about your fitness level, and stay true to it as you develop your skills.
At The Basement, you can find both a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class, as well as Tabata, which is a form of high intensity interval training based on the research of Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Japan. Sam Taylor, who teaches at The Basement and is a graduate of Cambrian College’s Physical Fitness Management program, says not only can interval training offer you a great cardio workout, but a muscle strengthening one as well.
“Interval creates endurance for people,” says Taylor. “If you run and bike for long periods of time, it will make your heart good – this (HIIT) will make your muscles good too. If people do a combination of two styles of training – steady state cardio and high intensity training – it’s all the types of training that will make you the best version of yourself.”
By “steady state” cardio, he means exercises that focuses on maintain a certain heart rate, like running or cycling.
With interval training, the benefit comes from the “stop and start” aspects. Taylor says this is why it’s important to work at your own pace when it comes to this type of training. “It’s the starting and stopping, so whether you’re doing more or less than the person beside you, it’s going to benefit you.”
He says that new participants should come in with a commitment to staying true to their fitness level by adjusting the intensity to what works for them, and to “come in warmed up, with a water bottle and a smile.”
With HIIT, and heeding Taylor’s advice, you can adapt the exercises to suit what you are capable of, and move from there. But what if you have an injury, a disability, or some other obstacle to high intensity training?
That’s when you try Low Intensity Interval Training (LIIT), like the classes offered at Accelerated Cycle-Barre, owned by Registered Physiotherapist Charlotte Savela. Before attending Laurentian and McMaster for physiotherapy, Savela was a certified group fitness instructor and says she has seen injuries from those attempting HIIT without the proper training or guidance.
In the LIIT classes, there is a focus on exercises that are specifically adapted to ensure that injury is avoided, and that each exercise considers the abilities of each attendee.
“If you have not exercised for years, then a HIIT class may be too difficult and you may not adhere to the program or become injured,” she says. “If you have shoulder injuries then a momentum-type exercise (kettle bells, battle ropes) may not be the best for you. If you have back or knee pain, burpees may not be a great choice. Tell the fitness instructor if you have an injury prior to class, this way they can modify the exercise.”
As far as choosing a class, Savela offers this advice: “make sure that the instructor is a certified trainer or group fitness instructor and they are coaching your movement pattern. Look for a smaller class, where the instructor is allowed to correct your technique.”
While it is increasingly difficult to find time to keep your health at its best, to ensure you have a strong heart, strong mind and strong muscles, adding interval training – whether low or high intensity – could be the workout you’re looking for. Whether you commit yourself to this as a full routine, or add it to your usual to keep you from getting bored, interval training not only has the research behind it, but the convenience factor as well. Once you hear about it, it gets much harder to say ‘I just don’t have time.’
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