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Getting fit faster

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If you've got a job or kids or both, you know how hard it can be to cram a workout into your day. But research says working out smarter, not longer, may give you a better shot at staying fit. A study found that 12 weeks of brief, intense interval exercise improved cardio health the same as traditional endurance, despite requiring five times less exercise volume and time commitment. Research like that is the basis for why fitness experts say interval training is becoming more popular.

At 7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can find Jamie Sheahan leading a small class in a hard workout. The nutritionist and personal trainer teaches "Get Fit with HIIT." That stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and it may be the answer to burning more calories quicker.

"Interval training is nice because it really gives you a lot more bang for your buck when it comes to your time," Sheahan said.

It's a fast-paced class. You do each exercise for about 30 seconds, then switch to something that works a different set of muscles. And there isn't much transition time, so you don't really get a break during a set. Then, after a quick drink of water, you start over again on a new set.

Sheahan says interval training like this creates an oxygen deficit, which means you'll keep burning calories after the 45-minute class is over.

"So instead of just burning calories in the time that you're working out, you also get this afterburn effect," Sheahan explained. "So for most people, that means maybe 15 to 20 percent increase in their metabolism in the hours after their activity. So for people who are trying to lose weight, it's great."

Her regulars said they like the combinations of different exercises enough that they've stuck with it for years.

"It's a perfect mix of a little bit of cardio and a little bit of strength. That's what I enjoy about it," Laurie Hill said.

"It's simple exercises that seem to do the trick," Rick Donlan said.

Simple doesn't mean easy, which is why interval training is a favorite for elite athletes. But Sheahan says it's easily modified to an individual's fitness level without losing the benefits.

"Now it's become much more mainstream because people are realizing they don't need to spend 90 minutes on the elliptical. They can go and in 30 or 40 minutes get the same calorie burn out of that," Sheahan said.

If you want to get sweaty and exhausted doing interval training, the Edge offers this class for members and nonmembers for a few bucks extra. If you aren't in this area, other gyms in the state are doing similar programs, too.

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