Don’t have time to stay in shape? Think again, as scientists have found that even a single minute of very intense exercise produces health benefits similar to longer, traditional endurance training.
“This is a very time-efficient workout strategy. Brief bursts of intense exercise are remarkably effective,” said lead author Martin Gibala, professor at McMaster University in Canada.
Scientists set out to determine how sprint interval training (SIT) compared to moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT), as recommended in public health guidelines.
They examined key health indicators including cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity, a measure of how the body regulates blood sugar.
A total of 27 sedentary men were recruited and assigned to perform three weekly sessions of either intense or moderate training for 12 weeks, or to a control group that did not exercise.
The team has previously shown that the SIT protocol, which involved three 20-second ‘all-out’ cycle sprints, was effective for boosting fitness.
The workout totalled just 10 minutes, including a two-minute warm-up and three-minute cool down, and two minutes of easy cycling for recovery between the hard sprints.
The new study compared the SIT protocol with a group who performed 45 minutes of continuous cycling at a moderate pace, plus the same warm-up and cool down.
After 12 weeks of training, the results were remarkably similar, even though the MICT protocol involved five times as much exercise and a five-fold greater time commitment.
“Most people cite ‘lack of time’ as the main reason for not being active,” said Gibala.
“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,” he said.
“Climbing a few flights of stairs on your lunch hour can provide a quick and effective workout. The health benefits are significant,” Gibala added.
The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
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