One of the biggest problems faced by many people who are looking to lose weight through exercise is that most intense exercises are not fun, which makes them more difficult to complete often enough to actually be successful in weight loss, leading to disappointment.

However, Denmark researches have recently explored this issue and have been developing a different approach to exercise that will help even the most unmotivated person push themselves. It is known as interval training, and allows people to have more fun during their exercise time which encourages them to spend more time doing it.

Interval training means alternating between normal exercise and high-intensity training which has a number of benefits. By alternating intensities, it not only makes for a more interesting and enjoyable exercise session, but it also can have much better results when it comes to weight loss as the high intensity portions will increase your heart rate and metabolism during the rest of the workout and beyond.

14830563144_77c772bc01_zImage source: flickr/chrishunkeler

In a telling study published last year, researchers in New Zealand asked overweight, out-of-shape adults to complete three months of high-intensity interval training, using one of two common types of training programs. One consisted of either four minutes of fast jogging, a rest, and four more minutes of strenuous jogging. The other consisted of 30 seconds of all-out effort, followed by rest, and was repeated three times.

Some of the exercisers’ sessions were supervised, and some were supposed to be done on their own.

Both programs would have been expected to round the volunteer into much better shape.

They didn’t. Few of the participants became significantly more fit, especially in the 30-second hard interval group. The probable reason, the researchers speculate, was that most of the participants had quit doing most or all of their assigned exercise early on in the study.

This finding and others like it troubled Jens Bangsbo, a professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, who studies high-intensity interval training. In studies at his lab, repeated hard intervals had almost invariably made people fitter, faster and healthier.

But those studies typically had involved highly motivated athletes riding high-tech stationary bicycles and had been supervised by the scientists, who personally had cajoled the participants to complete each interval.

Those were hardly real-world circumstances, Dr. Bangsbo realized.

So he and his colleagues began to wonder if there might be more practical and palatable approaches to high-intensity interval training.

“We wanted to create a workout that could be employed by everyone, from the nonexperienced person to the elite athlete,” Dr. Bangsbo said.

After some trial and error, they came up with a candidate routine and named it 10-20-30 training.

It has become my favorite interval program.

The essentials of 10-20-30 training are simple. Run, ride or perhaps row on a rowing machine gently for 30 seconds, accelerate to a moderate pace for 20 seconds, then sprint as hard as you can for 10 seconds. (It should be called 30-20-10 training, obviously, but that is not as catchy.) Repeat.

The enticements of this particular program are many. It is easy to remember and low-tech, requiring no gym membership, heart rate monitor, or flow chart, as some complicated interval programs seem to demand. You don’t even need a stopwatch to monitor the 30-, 20-, and 10-second time changes. You can, like me, count to yourself, which seems to make the intervals pass quickly.

Perhaps best of all, the grueling, all-out portion of the workout lasts for only 10 seconds, which is far more manageable for most of us than 30 seconds or 4 minutes.

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