How interval training benefits women: new study

Posted on August 27, 2013 by Stone Hearth News

Interval training is a well-known way to get the maximum benefits of exercise in the shortest amount of time. New research shows that when it comes to running, women may get more out of high intensity interval training (HIIT) than their male counterparts.

“Sex-specific Responses to Interval Training” was conducted by Drs. Matt Laurent and Matt Kutz, Human Movement, Sport and Leisure Studies at Bowling Green State University; Lauren Vervaecke, Division of Applied Physiology, University of South Carolina; and Dr. Matt Green, Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at the University of North Alabama. The study will be published in an upcoming Journal of Strength and Conditioning.

Earlier interval training studies primarily focused on highly trained males, but researchers say that overlooks the variety of other populations that routinely use interval training.

Researchers put eight men and eight women between the ages of 19 and 30 through self-paced, high intensity interval training using different recovery periods. All of them reported at least a moderate fitness level and participation in at least one session of interval training a week.

Participants hit the treadmill for six, four-minute intervals performed at the highest intensity they felt they could maintain. Recovery between intervals consisted of one minute, two minutes or four minutes.

Throughout the intervals, their maximum oxygen consumption and heart rates were measured. Results revealed a significant effect of gender on both percentages. Across the trials, men self-selected a faster relative pace, but the women worked at a higher percentage of their maximum heart rate than the men and a higher percentage of their maximum oxygen consumption.

“I think what our data show is that there appear to be meaningful differences in how men and women self-regulate their workouts,” Laurent said. “Specifically, in our case, men and women tend to work at the same level of perceived exertion and feel similarly recovered between each interval, however, as they perform the interval runs women tended to work ‘harder’ from a relative cardiovascular (%HRmax and %VO2max) standpoint than men.”

Results also confirmed previous findings suggesting that a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio is optimal during HIIT for both men and women.

“I really think one of the ‘take home’ points from our study was, despite the gender differences that we found, individuals performing high-intensity interval training should listen to and trust their body and pay attention to how they are feeling,” said Laurent

“Without having any feedback about their data, all the participants had to use to set their pace was how they felt during the run and how recovered they felt. In that sense when runners perform high-intensity intervals, trust that if you push yourself to run what you consider hard, you are probably at the correct intensity, and if you maintain recommended work-to-rest ratios you most likely will recover appropriately to get the most out of your workout, independent of gender.”

Dark Chocolate: The Healthy Chocolate That Can Make Us Happier

The idea that chocolate is bad for us is something that has been drilled into us since we we children; if it wasn’t going to rot our teeth it was going to make us fat or give us spots. As a result, chocolate became a treat or a naughty addition that we blamed for our health problems but now it seems that it was wrong to tar all chocolate products with the same brush because dark chocolate – in moderation – could actually do us a lot of good.

Could dark chocolate actually be healthy?

It may be hard to believe at first but there are in fact a lot of potential health benefits to eating the right amount of dark bars of chocolate. Amazingly, these products can have high counts of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, iron and copper, and they are full of everyone’s favourite health food component – antioxidants. Antioxidants can help the body fight against free radicals and prevents cell damage, which makes them rather useful against cancer and ageing. These basic, healthy ingredients are just the start in what dark chocolate can potentially do.

Using dark chocolate for your heart and your mind.

The first area of health that can be aided by eating the odd bar of dark chocolate is cardiovascular because it can improve blood flow, decrease blood pressure, prevent clots and maintain vessels. Each of of the four minerals mentioned above plays an important role in the health of this crucial system; potassium and magnesium help to fight heart diseases and have ability to prevent strokes, iron protects you against anaemia and the magnesium can have a positive effect on preventing type 2 diabetes.

These benefits on heart health will be welcomed by many dieters that are trying to find more fun and heart-healthy snacks but there is another side to dark chocolate that we can all enjoy – it can actually make us happier! It appears that those of us using chocolate as a form of anti-depressant may be onto something because dark bars contain PEA, a chemical that encourages the release of endorphins. In addition to this, these dark forms can also improve cognitive function because they improve blood flow to the brain and offer a small form of caffeine as a mild stimulant.

Do these ideas have any scientific verification?

It is understandable if you are reading these advantages thinking that this is all sounding to good to be true, and that they are just exaggerated claims to help chocolate manufacturers sell more products, but the science is solid. Some of these studies may have been funded by chocolate giant Mars, such as the study into flavanols that showed that they really could improve cognitive abilities when subjects were given different amounts of a cocoa flavanol drink, but their findings are reliable and show that the health benefits are dark chocolate are wide-reaching. A second study, for example, showed a definite difference in the effect on blood pressure between those that ate 100g of white chocolate and those that ate 100g of dark.

Why dark chocolate and not milk or white?

You may be reading all of these health benefits and studies thinking that there is surely no better excuse to increase your chocolate intake; however, it must be reiterated that these effects only refer to dark forms of chocolate, not white or milk chocolates, and it should still be consumed in moderation. Bars with a percentage of 85% are the most highly recommended because not only are they full of the advantageous chemicals highlighted, they are also low in sugar. Milk chocolate can be made up of a scary 50% sugar while these dark forms have just 5 grams and the glycemic index and risk risk to blood sugar levels are, therefore, much lower.

Summary: why you should make the switch to dark chocolate.

In short, the idea that dark chocolate is the healthier, grown-up alternative seems to be justified because not only does it have less sugar and more antioxidants, it can also help improve your cardiovascular health and make you happier. Making the switch may be tough at first if you are used to sweeter, lighter brands but it will not take long to get used to the taste and enjoy the benefits.