Fitness: Interval Aerobics are More Effective Than Continuous Aerobics

Fitness: Interval Aerobics are More Effective Than Continuous Aerobics

Dick Moss, Editor

When leading an aerobics class, most instructors exercise their students continuously in an effort to keep them at a training heart rate.

But there may be a more effective strategy.  Research has shown that interval aerobics—in which periods of exercise are separated by periods of active rest—produce greater fitness gains.

One 12-week study used several groups of participants.

The continuous aerobics group performed  50-minute classes consisting of a 10-minute warmup, 30-minute high impact period, and 10 minutes of calisthenics.

The interval training group performed interval training consisting of 7-10 periods of 3-5 minute high-impact aerobics, each followed by an equal recovery period of light walking or skipping.

Each group performed the same exercises and worked within their training heart range for a total of 30 minutes, and below their training range for 20 minutes.

Both groups improved, but the interval group showed a significantly greater improvement in maximum oxygen uptake, oxygen pulse (the amount of oxygen they used with every heartbeat), and length of time to anaerobic threshold (how long it took them to build significant lactic acid in their muscles).

The interval aerobics group also showed a greater increase in maximum ventilation (the amount of air they breathed out per minute) and a one percent greater loss in body fat.

Clearly the best cardiovascular and body fat loss results came from the group using interval training.

Why it Worked
Steven Blair of the Institute for Aerobics Research believes that interval aerobics are more effective because they produce greater exercise intensity.  Interval training exercisers seem to work harder knowing that a relief period is coming up.

And because they can check their pulse during breaks, interval trainers may be better able to monitor their target heart rate during the intense periods.

1. Valerie DeBenedette, “News Briefs: Is interval dancing the best form of dance?” The Physician and Sportsmedicine, August 1987.
2. Edward Howley, Dixie Thompson, Fitness Professional's Handbook-6th Edition, Human Kinetics, 2012.
3. Arlette Perry (PhD) , “The workout of the future.” Shape, September 1987.

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