Is there any research done lately as to the effect of interval training on cholesterol? Is it more/less/no different than other forms of cardio? Or better yet, what is the best type of exercise to help manage cholesterol, specifically?
High intensity interval training ("trainer speak" for alternating between intense spurts of activity and less intense periods of recovery) has many advantages. Firstly, it’s perhaps the best method to boost cardiovascular and endurance fitness in the shortest time frame, even among conditioned athletes. Secondly, interval training greatly reduces the boredom that is associated with steady state aerobic exercise. When you keep the same pace for 30 minutes, it may seem that the time passes slower than a tortoise with nowhere to be. However, when you perform higher effort intervals, you may find that the slower paced recovery intervals pass almost too quickly and that the total time seems considerably shorter than usual. And last, and most definitely not least, it’s an excellent way to whittle the middle. The white coats at Australia’s University of New South Wales determined that overweight subjects who exercised on stationary bikes using intervals burned three times as much body fat as those who exercised at a continuous, regular pace. The researchers believe this is an effect of body chemicals called catecholamines, which are produced in substantial quantities when we exercise at elevated intensities. Adrenaline and noradrenaline, two main catecholamines, act to break down fat stores and burn them. In a similar study, Canadian researchers reported in the Journal of Applied Physiology that two weeks of interval training produced an increase in whole body and skeletal muscle capacity for fat oxidation in female subjects. Growth hormone levels have also been shown to rise after high intensity exercise. Development of fat burning lean body mass is among the many side effects of higher growth hormone levels. The upshot is, while there has not been any direct studies on intervals and cholesterol in recent times, interval training would likely have a positive impact (probably more than steady state exercise) on serum cholesterol levels as significant weight/fat loss is often accompanied by improvements in the levels of bad (i.e., LDL) and good (i.e., HDL) cholesterol floating around the bloodstream. This all makes interval training one of the best methods to improve body composition and help stave off chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
On a cautionary note, clients with contradictions such as high blood pressure or arthritis should consult with their physicians prior to commencing this style of high intensity training. Still, anyone in moderately good health might consider doing interval training a couple of times a week to boost fitness and help beat workout boredom.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A new study was found after this Q&A was posted, and it does show an effect of interval training on cholesterol levels. To view, click here: http://www.webmd.com/heart/metabolic-syndrome/news/20080707/hard-exercise-curbs-metabolic-syndrome?src=RSS_PUBLIC
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