senior man, exercise bike

Just 1 Minute of Intense Exercise Produces Health Benefits

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario have found that a single minute of very intense exercise produces health benefits similar to longer, traditional endurance training. The findings were published online in April 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE.

A release from the university notes that the findings put to rest the common excuse for not getting in shape: There is not enough time.

The release quotes Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and lead author on the study, as saying, “This is a very time-efficient workout strategy. Brief bursts of intense exercise are remarkably effective.”

The 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 McMaster team has previously shown that the SIT protocol, which involved three 20-second “all-out” cycle sprints, was effective for boosting fitness. The workout totaled just ten 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”, Gibala said. “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.”

Gibala, who has been studying interval training for more than a decade, was the first researcher to show that a few minutes per week of intense exercise produced benefits similar to longer, continuous workouts. Over time, his team has experimented with different protocols in an effort to identify the most time-efficient exercise strategies.

“The basic principles apply to many forms of exercise,” he says. “Climbing a few flights of stairs on your lunch hour can provide a quick and effective workout. The health benefits are significant.”

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