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


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 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 all out and periods of active rest where you’re not going as hard but still moving.

The 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.  (ok, 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/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 and that’s a 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!