Tabata: too good to be true?

A 4 min total body workout – too good to be true? In my opinion, yes and no. This 4 min. workout, known as Tabata, is really kind of the craze right now for it’s obvious appeal of the short amount of time it takes and the benefits it claims to offer. It was originated by a Japanese scientist who was studying the different effects of moderate intensity interval workouts in comparison to high intensity interval workouts. The study showed a larger improvement in aerobic capacity with the  high intensity group resulting in perhaps more calories burned as well. So what is Tabata exactly?

This  4 min. segment is short, but the high level of  intensity is the key.  A typical tabata workout would look like this if it was strictly cardio: 20 sec high intensity (all out sprints for ex.) followed by 10 sec recovery (light jog or fast walk). Do this pattern 8 times to get to 4 min. The intensity of the 20 seconds must be to your max b/c it is such a short amount of time. Tabata workouts can vary in design and may include weight training. In that case the 20 sec. might be weighted squats as intense as possible followed by the 10 sec. recovery.

So now you get a sense for what tabata is and how intense it can get. Now you may be wondering if the benefits (beside the obvious shortened time) is worth all that effort during the 20 sec. There are numerous benefits, and the first is the somewhat obvious increase in your aerobic and anaerobic capacity. When you run for an hour (endurance training) you are increasing only your aerobic capacity. Other benefits include a reduction in body fat, lower resistance to insulin, a rise in RMR (resting metabolic rate) and an increase in lean muscle tissue due to the stress from the intense 20 second rounds. The afterburn of calories is said to last longer after Tabata than a longer moderate workout as well.

The effects are about as enticing as the 4 min. workout! However, there are a couple of reasons for my yes and no opinion on whether Tabata is too good to be true.First, Tabata is meant to be a VERY intense workout b/c of the short duration and works best if you are already pretty fit. This could be a real health risk for some and should really be discussed with your doctor before engaging in it. Also,  this intensity needs a lot of discipline.That 20 sec is ALL OUT which may not be comfortable for some. Although, I also believe it could grow someone’s level of discipline, body awareness and capability. Lastly, this should not be your regular workout. Such intensity should not be done every day. Also, moderation is key, so alternate Tabata with days of endurance and weight training for a well-rounded fitness program.

That said, I think Tabata is worth a try. I am a big fan of interval training and have seen the effects it has had on my own fitness level.So the next time you have 4  free min., you will know what to do with it!

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