Interval Training

  • Author:
    Richard Weil, MEd, CDE

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Will interval training help me burn more calories and more fat?

Yes it will. Intervals improve your aerobic fitness level significantly, and when that happens, you're able to do more work and burn more calories (given the same amount of time and/or distance). For instance, say you can only run on the treadmill at 6 mph. In 30 minutes at that speed, and if you weigh 150 pounds, you'll run 3 miles and burn 300 calories (100 calories per mile for a 150-pound person). However, if you're more fit and can run at 6.5 mph, then in 30 minutes, you'll run 3.25 miles and burn more calories. And as a bonus, you'll burn more fat as a result of your improved fitness. Keep in mind that intervals are tough and could potentially increase your appetite. If that happens, I suggest that you drink lots of water when you do them, and that you have a snack with carbs and protein (and a little fat is OK) 20-30 minutes before you train. Energy bars or something like a bagel with peanut butter are good choices. Snacking before a workout usually decreases appetite afterward. You can also experiment with a small snack after your workout.

Will interval training help me lose weight?

The key to weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume. Intervals contribute to weight loss because they make you fitter, which allows you to work out harder and longer and burn more fat and more calories. But don't forget that you must burn more calories than you consume to lose weight even with intervals.

Is circuit training an interval-training workout?

Circuit training is where you spend 30-45 seconds at one weightlifting machine, or a station with dumbbells or a resistance exercise like crunches, and then move quickly to the next station. It's a great aerobic and resistance exercise workout in one, and yes, it is interval training because during the switch from one exercise station to another your heart rate will drop and then increase once you start working again at the next station. It won't work as well as dedicated running or cycling intervals to increase endurance and recovery, but it will tone and strengthen muscles, particularly in the upper body, and that's a benefit you don't typically get with intervals.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/30/2015

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