Interval Training and the Benefits It Provides: A Short Interview With The Rest Doctor

Dr Matthew Edlund, MD is the director for the Center for Circadian Medicine and is an acknowledged expert on rest, sleep and biological clocks. He has written books on these topics including ”The Body Clock Advantage” and “The Power of Rest” .  I sat down recently to ask  a few questions on small changes in rest and physical activity.

Interval training involves short bursts of high intensity activity, where a set of stairs can act as the interval training throughout a day. Shorter bursts of activity allow the body to rest and repair itself,  and this rest is where interval training has its value. Resting for 5-15 minutes has been shown to help people recharge and feel more alert. These shorts periods of intense activity and rest are showing more and more to be effective in refreshing and rewiring our bodies for the better.

Interval training has acknowledged physical benefits, does this also carry over to a better mental state as a result of taking care of our bodies?

There’s not much data. So far it’s positive. Which is not a surprise – people feel better when fitter. They feel better just moving.

With short bursts of activity having a clearer positive effect on our bodies, are there any ways that this could be promoted in workplaces more frequently?

Yes. Fitter, more alert workers tend to be more entrepreneurial and productive. Letting people go off to walk outside a few minutes or even use the stairwells can make people feel far more alive.

You mention how fast intervals can be done almost anywhere. Combined with short naps do you think this could become a more standard practice, especially for those who want the better sleep but feel limited by time? You can’t short shrift sleep time without negative results. Period. Fortunately, the more fit you are, the better your overall sleep.

You talk about how short naps are more natural for the human biology, would a siesta like practice work in the same way?
Not everyone would want that. Most historical siestas were longer than the short naps people appear to prefer today (10-30 minutes.)

Microsleeping that leads to crashes is well known, if napping and rapid interval training were better implemented could it also affect people’s awareness and functionality in while driving?
Just telling people about microsleeps occurring while driving makes them more aware. French research shows that people who drive for a living – truckdrivers – are very cognizant of when they’re falling asleep at the wheel.

Does napping alter sleeping schedules? If so are the sleeping schedules we are recommended not the natural pattern for human biology?
Getting sleep now modifies sleep later. That’s partly how biological intelligence works – the information inside us is endlessly modified, all the time. And the sleep patterns of yesterday are very different from today. The question is less “what’s natural” than “what works?”, the answer changing with the goals you wish to reach.

Could you give us an example of how Paradoxical Relaxation works? You focus on the muscle tension of one muscle. Exclusively. Preferably a spot that’s very small. Compare it with another muscle next to it. Feel the difference. Focus on nothing else. Then watch the rest of your body relax.

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