Life Health

Interval training is the new fountain of youth

By Joanne Richard, Special to Postmedia Network

Celebrity trainer Ramona Braganza. (Handout)

Celebrity trainer Ramona Braganza. (Handout)

Interval training is not only king of exercise, it's been declared a fountain of youth by a new study. Forget Botox and expensive creams, reach for your runners instead. High-intensity interval training increases cellular energy production that staves off aging, according to a National Institutes of Health funded study and published this month in Cell Metabolism.

What you need to do is alternate short bursts of intense aerobic exercise with intervals of lighter moderate exercise. You go hard and you back off. "As a trainer to the stars, recently getting Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in shape for 50 Shades Darker, I can attest to the benefits of a shorter, harder workout," says Ramona Braganza, who's also trained Halle Berry, Jessica Alba, Scarlett Johnson and Anne Hathaway.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been anti-aging magic for this A-list trainer and global fitness expert. "As someone in my 50's I have always known that exercise keeps me looking and feeling 10 years younger... My celebs don't have a lot of time so this form of training which I include in my 3-2-1 Training Method - Ramona 321 Pro app on iTunes - works wonders inside and out!" adds Braganza, of ramonabraganza.com.

In a burst of energy I head out to an Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) studio for the first time because I need a kick-butt interval-based class. Besides slowing down decline, I want to speed up - literally - for an upcoming 5 Peaks trail run and get stronger too; others there want to be lean, mean fat-burning machines. Interval training is where it's at to get fitter faster - and now younger.

OTF offers the interval sweet spot that delivers energy and crazy calorie burn. All fitness levels can do it, says Bessie Tam, of north-york.orangetheoryfitness.com. Participants torch calories by wearing heart rate monitors during the workout so they don't over- or under-train, and each workout is different every time. "Orangetheory is designed to push you into 84% of your maximum heart rate - the Orange zone - for at least 12 minutes of your workout. This produces an after burn effect called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) which will keep you burning calories 24 to 36 hours after the workout."

Basically the body has to pay off an oxygen debt after an intense workout so it keeps burning more calories long after you've left the studio. Interval training is an effective workout whether you are training for endurance, power, or weight loss, and no matter what fitness level, says Tam, who just opened Orangetheory Fitness in North York, ON. There are more than 600 OTF locations worldwide, with a flux of heart-pumping locations opening up across Canada. One is about to open up in Newfoundland.

"Workouts are different everyday so your body will never plateau from the same workout," adds Tam. The heart rate monitor displays your stats real-time in the studio and participants get performance summary emailed to them, including how many calories they burned. That's cool, so too the group energy and special attention of personal training.

Interval training with wearable technology continues to be a big trend, hooking athletes and celebrities. Orange is the new black for former captain of the Vancouver Canucks, Trevor Linden, who owns OTF studios in western Canada. Perdita Felicien, Olympian hurdler from Pickering, is an OTF ambassador. Erin Andrews, a professional sportscaster and Dancing with the Stars celebrity, is in the Orange zone, and former Superbowl champion Brendon Ayanbadejo is franchising fitness for the masses with dozens of OTF locations in California.

No money for classes or a personal trainer? Put the brakes on aging now with some HIIT on your own. Besides getting the Ramona 321 Pro app, Braganza recommends a walk/jog program for beginners. "Done on a treadmill or outdoors, you can choose either timed intervals or markers on your route. On a treadmill, walk for a couple minutes comfortably to warm up, then take the intensity up to moderate walk, say 4.0 mph. After a one-minute jog at 5.0 or higher for 30 seconds, return back to a moderate walk for 30 seconds. Repeat for four to five cycles and cool down for a minute or so at the end."

If you're outdoors, choose markers in the distance, perhaps jog from telephone pole to telephone pole, while walking ones in between. "If you're a jogger, sprint in a similar fashion. The goal is to take up the intensity between bouts of recovery."

Braganza's number one rule is to work outside your comfort zone during the intense phase. "The more intense the work phase, such as a sprint the longer the recovery should be. Consider a 10 second sprint with a 20 second recovery."