Interval Training and Longevity: The Harder You Work, the Better You’ll Live

Interval training might be the key to living to be 100.

A very cool study from Norway suggests that the more you exercise, and the greater the intensity of exercise, the longer you'll live. Those years won't just be tacked on either; you'll have less health problems and more vibrancy. There has been a lot of buzz this year about interval training, also known as HIIT, Tabata, and CrossFit.  They all basically do the same thing: periods of high-intensity training where you're working full out interspersed with periods of active rest where you're not going as hard but still moving. A Norwegian study looked at nearly 5,000 people and measured their VO2 Max capacity over a period of years.  They found that a 50-year-old can be just as, if not more, fit than a 20-year-old, but the key is exercise and intensity.  The researchers worked with a 4 x 4 model: four minutes of intense exercise followed by four minutes of rest with four cycles of high activity. How to Use Interval Training If you're going to incorporate interval training into your routine you need to start slowly and work out.  It doesn't really matter what you're doing for the activity, literally any type of exercise can be turned into an "interval training workout" from running and Spinning to kettlebells or a bootcamp class.  (Okay, maybe not bowling, unless you did jumping jacks at the throw line ...) Start out by doing one minute of high intensity activity and then two minutes of lower intensity activity (don't just sit on a bench and look at your watch, you should still be moving fairly strongly).  Once that's easy, progress to 90 seconds high activity, 90 seconds low activity.  From there, go for two minutes high alternated with one minute low, and then start tacking on more time such as three minutes high/two minutes low, etc.  You'll have to experiment a little bit to get a formula that's right for you.  Working up to four minutes is pretty darned intense; you will be a big pile of goopy sweat by the end of a workout that gets up to that level. This study has actually swayed me enough to pick up my interval training.  I do it when I run and Spin, but not when I do Pilates.  I might throw in a little more weight work and use the interval techniques to boost my heart rate a little bit more. Because I plan on living to be 100 years old and I want to arrive in style with a really big party and people asking me what my secret is, that's motivation to keep me making healthy choices every day instead of plopping my butt on the couch. Do you do interval training?  What kind do you do?  Have you tried different types?  How long can you go with your intense phase?  I'm really quite curious to see what everyone else is doing; I need some ideas for myself! Cheers, Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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6 Responses to Interval Training and Longevity: The Harder You Work, the Better You’ll Live

  1. Bernie October 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    I love interval training! At a minimum, I build it into my runs by having enough hills to go up and down: just maintaining a constant stride/pace allows me to increase/decrease my intensity without thinking about it. I also take advantage of my city running by increasing my intensity by speeding up to a red light, then recovering while I wait, then slowly picking it up again. I also like to throw either some fartlek training or some fixed ladders in my runs to mix it up.

    To me, intervals make running interesting.

  2. Lisa Johnson October 21, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    I agree Bernie, intervals definitely make running interesting … :-) L–

  3. Kimberley October 24, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    I do CrossFit 3-5x/week – we do tabata timed workouts as part of xfit workout occasionally – love it though it’s more challenging than it sounds! (tabata is 20 sec on/10 sec off for 8 rounds = 4 minutes at one station, then 1 min rest and move to next station – last week’s stations were jumping pullups, wallballs, chest press (65# ladies, 100#+ for guys), rowing – in 10 sec off we were in “hold” positions like a down squat or keeping bar in locked out position) challenging! Also just started a “Cardio MMA” class that is a combo of boxing, kickboxing and crossfit. It’s 30 min of intense cardio but all interval – 5 min on (changing activity every min) and then 1 min rest for 5 rounds. LOVE the boxing so empowering for women!

  4. Lisa Johnson October 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Boxing really is great for women, I had a stint doing kick boxing regularly and absolutely loved it. So great for the arms too. :-) L–

  5. Doug May 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    I raced bicycles for several years. Now, most of us no longer race but still ride pretty hard, which would include intervals. We also have few health problems. I think this article verifies what I have always believed in that intervals are fantastic for health as long as there is sufficient rest

  6. Lisa Johnson May 8, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Doug I would agree, glad you like it :)

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