Seen as the optimal way to fast track fitness, build muscle and boost metabolism, interval training is a quick workout that provides excellent results in minimal time

Being strapped for time can no longer be used as an excuse for not exercising. Fitness experts are now recommending interval training, which can be done in as little as 15 minutes, with the same benefits of a complete workout.

Interval training involves alternating between high exertion exercises followed by a low-intensity recovery or resting period (in which you do not stop activity but instead, exercise at a more leisurely pace.)

For instance, you can alternate two-five minutes of intense jogging (running at the fastest speed you can manage), followed by walking at a steadier, slower pace. This pattern is then repeated for the entire duration of your workout.

“Alternating these high and low intensity sessions can provide a complete workout and proves to be the best way to melt that stubborn fat. Interval training can also be applied to exercises such as swimming, cycling, rowing and step aerobics; it is a great way to condition your heart and tone your body in addition to building your stamina,” says Mumbai based private gym instructor Kiran Mehta.

Interval training offers many benefits as listed below.

Burns additional calories in less time:

Half-hour interval training can burn as many calories as one-hour workout at a steadier pace. It saves time and helps to get the best fitness results. According to Jan Helgerud, an exercise and fitness expert at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, high intensity interval training is twice as effective as a normal workout. Helgerud recommends four high intensity sessions lasting four minutes each. In between each session, there should be three minutes of recovery time, when laboured breathing and the racing heartbeat slowly return to normal. The entire workout lasts only 28 minutes.

However, this may be too strenuous for beginners.

So, their high intensity sessions should not be more than two minutes with four to five minutes of recovery in between. This is another big benefit of interval training—it can be altered to suit all levels of fitness, to make it ideal for people of all ages.

Improves stamina and accelerates fat loss:

Regular interval training is an excellent way to improve stamina. Over time, as the pace of higher intensity workouts is increased, the body gets stronger. The additional muscles build burns more calories and also helps to burn fat faster.

Prevents fitness plateaus:

Once you get used to your exercise routine, the body tends to plateau. It is not easy to burn as many calories or lose weight.

“Interval training jolts the body from its regular routine and revs the metabolism,” says Mehta. “But never push yourself to do more than you can.”

TIPS FROM TRAINERS

*No special equipment is required for interval training. Simply modify the existing activity, so that it is performed in spurts of higher and lower intensity.

* Keep an eye on the clock: Be sure to time it right, so that you can plan and switch between the sessions accurately.

* Always warm up when you begin and cool down when you finish. For this, low intensity exercises should be the first and last sessions in the workout. This enhances flexibility of joints and prevents injury.

*Since interval training is strenuous, have a post-exercise snack (apples, bananas or almonds) handy. Be sure to replenish lost fluids with a sports drink.

*For some people, interval training is not recommended. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease, do consult your doctor before you begin this workout.