One Minute of Intense Exercise May Be All You Need
It’s not that we don’t know we need to work out; it’s just that the alternatives (eating, sleeping, bingeing TV episodes from the couch) are so much easier. Between holding down full-time jobs, taking care of kids, doing all of the boring, behind-the-scenes grown-up stuff (we see you, taxes), and attempting to have a social life, it’s not surprising that so many Americans find it hard to make the time or work up the motivation to do an hour of exercise each day.
Which makes this new research from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, welcome news.
The researchers conducted a 12-week study that focused on 27 sedentary men. Some of the subjects were assigned sprint interval training (SIT), while others got moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT), and the control group didn’t work out at all.
Three times a week, while the MICT group spent 45 minutes cycling at a moderate pace along with a two-minute warm-up and a three-minute cooldown, the SIT group did three 20-second sessions of intense cycling, with two minutes of easy cycling in between, plus a two-minute warm-up and three-minute cooldown. (We can only assume the MICT group really hated the SIT group.)
What they found was that the two methods gave very similar results in terms of heart health and insulin sensitivity. “Most people cite ‘lack of time’ as the main reason for not being active,” said Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and the lead author on the study. “Our study shows that an interval-based approach can be more efficient—you can get health and fitness benefits comparable to the traditional approach, in less time.”
Now we know what you’re thinking, yes with the warm-up and the cooldown and the two-minute breaks of easy cycling, the SIT technique still adds up to ten minutes in the gym, but taking into account the effort involved, that’s really only three minutes of intense exercise a week! Considering the MICT group was plugging away on their bikes for nearly an hour to get the same results, that’s not a bad trade-off.