Interval training is a type of athletic training performed by alternating short periods of high-intensity activity with short periods of rest or low-intensity activity. Most interval workouts are cardio workouts designed for weight loss and improving athletic performance. When choosing the best interval training workout, one should consider his or her individual fitness level, the time he or she has available to devote to a workout, and the type of exercise he or she prefers to do. It is relatively easy to tailor an interval training workout to suit a person's individual needs.
Interval training is usually not recommended for people with heart problems or other serious health risks. Fitness experts do recommend interval training for reasonably healthy people who want to lose weight and increase aerobic capacity. Interval training is generally regarded as an effective method, equal to or better than a long, steady cardio workout for both weight loss and performance improvement. Doing an interval training workout also takes much less time than doing a traditional workout and can, therefore, be a convenient option for people with limited time for exercising.
An interval training workout can be done with any number of exercises, such as using an exercise bike, sprinting, jumping rope, or doing jumping jacks. There are varying recommendations as to the length of the intervals but, traditionally, high-intensity periods should last about twice as long as low-intensity periods. As an example, a runner doing interval training might sprint for two minutes and then walk for one minute. This cycle can then be repeated until the end of the workout. It is important to include warm-up and cool-down periods with this training method to avoid injury.
One advanced interval training workout method, known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), is based on the same principles as normal interval training, except it is intended to be a shorter, much more intense workout. HIIT involves alternating short durations of very-high-intensity activity with short durations of moderate-intensity activity. One should still perform the high-intensity activity for twice as long as the moderate-intensity activity, but the durations can be shortened. For example, a sprinter using HIIT might sprint at maximum speed for about 30 seconds and then jog for 15 seconds. An entire HIIT workout may consist of about ten iterations of this cycle and is, therefore, a very short workout.