Women in midlife often struggle with weight gain. They may turn to exercise to try to lose weight. One of the best forms of exercise for weight loss is interval training. Interval training can be used by beginners or by women who want to take their exercise routine to the next level.
What is interval training?
Interval training is a form of cardiovascular exercise training that involves a series of higher intensity intervals mixed with lower intensity (or rest intervals). The length of the intervals depends on your goals, the type of exercise and your fitness levels. The intervals can be timed exactly or they can be more inexact measure.
For more information on the benefits of cardiovascular exercise in general, check out this article.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is where the work intervals are at a high intensity. Medium intensity interval training is less common, but also an option especially if you are a beginner.
You can get free access to the Menopause Fitness and Nutrition Starter Kit to watch a short video:
What are the benefits of interval training?
Here is a list of the benefits of interval training:
- If you are a beginner then interval training is a great way to improve your endurance so you can eventually do longer workouts at a higher intensity.
- For any level, the increased intensity allows you to burn more calories than at a lower intensity.
- Interval training helps to improve cardiovascular fitness. This applies whether you are a beginner, or an athlete looking for a personal best.
- Interval training allows you to finish your workout in a shorter time. You can get a great high intensity workout is about 20 minutes.
- High intensity interval training boosts hormones such as endorphins (which make you feel good) and growth hormones (which stimulate muscle growth).
- Some people find that interval training is less boring than steady state cardio
- If you do a variety of movements in your workout (like in a HIIT class) you will be more likely to work more muscles than a steady state workout of running or riding an exercise bike. This gives you a more rounded workout and may help to prevent injuries.
What are some examples of interval training?
The list below gives you some ideas of how you can use interval training:
- Walking slowly with quick walking mixed in.
- Running mixed with walking. This is commonly used for people trying to get into running or returning from a break or injury.
- Sprinting mixed with walking or slow running
- Cycling in hilly terrain. We often think of cycling as steady state cardio, but if you cycling on hills you will be doing some hard intervals on the up phase and some easy intervals on the down phase.
- Attending a HIIT class. These can be very motivating and will likely work muscles you didn’t know you had. If you are a beginner, then go easy. Give yourself permission to stop (even if the instructor doesn’t) and to be the slowest in the class.
- Attending a spin class. This is a great indoor alternative to cycling outside. Many women enjoy the motivation of the instructor and the class.
How long should your intervals be?
This depends on your fitness level and your goals. If you are just starting with exercise try a work period of 30 seconds to 1 minute and a rest period of 2-3 minutes. As you get more fit, you will want to either increase the intensity, increase the work period or decrease the rest period.
How often should you do an interval workout?
High intensity interval training should not be done every day. 2-3 days per week is plenty. As we get older, we take longer to recover, so keep to this limit and listen to how your body is responding. Mix in some other exercise days for the best results.
If you are using lower intensity intervals, like walking, then you can probably do these everyday. It might be better to mix your workouts up – an easy walk one day, an interval workout the next, a resistance workout the next …
Are there risks to interval training?
I have seen women of all ages and including those with chronic conditions benefit from interval training. However, you should consult your physician if you haven’t been exercising or if you have a chronic health condition.
Make sure to warm up and cool down for at least 5 minutes before starting any high intensity intervals.
You should always start slowly, especially if you are trying a new exercise. Limit the number of intervals when you start to avoid injury. Limit the high impact movements if you haven’t done high impact exercise before. And most importantly – try not to be competitive. Many injuries occur when women are trying to go as hard as the person beside them in the class.
Interval training is a great way to improve your fitness and lose weight with short workouts. I can be fun and motivating and can be used at any level. To get a sample interval training workout (and some other workouts) download this free workout plan designed specifically for menopausal women.