Get fit in a minute: Exercise study says it's possible

April 28, 2016 Providence Health Team

No time for exercise? No problem. Just 60 seconds of high-intensity interval training provides health benefits similar to 50 minutes of traditional endurance training, according to a study by kinesiologists at a Canadian university.

Putting high-intensity interval training to the test

Much has been written recently about high-intensity interval training. Many health and fitness gurus recommend the practice, which involves working muscle groups in quick, intense spurts and then relaxing them. Yet few, if any, previous studies used a control group to measure results.

That changed following a recent study at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Researchers led by Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology, recruited 25 men who were out of shape, divided them into three groups and gave them different assignments.

The men in the first group got off easy: They were told to do nothing for 12 weeks. The second group was assigned a  traditional exercise program, riding stationary bicycles three times a week for 50 minutes. Their time included two minutes to warm up and three to cool down.

The third group followed a 10-minute sprint interval training (SIT) regimen three times a week:

  • Warming up for two minutes on a stationary bicycle
  • Pedaling as hard as possible for 20 seconds
  • Riding easy for two minutes
  • Pedaling all out for 20 seconds
  • Riding easy for two minutes
  • Pedaling as hard as possible for 20 seconds
  • Cooling down for three minutes

The results?

At the end of the 12 weeks, the second and third group of men showed remarkably similar results in increased endurance. Yet the traditional exercise group's time commitment was 27 hours, compared with six hours for the SIT group. The study suggests that men can reap health and fitness benefits in a fraction of the time with sprint interval training.

The researchers plan to look at the benefits for women in an upcoming study.

Starting an exercise program

If you do not exercise regularly but are interested in the McMaster University regimen, talk with your health care provider about whether SIT is right for you.

Here are some other ideas from the National Institute on Aging for how to work short bursts of activity into your daily routine:

  • When you unload groceries, strengthen your arms by lifting something heavy like a carton of milk a few times before putting it away.
  • When you go shopping, build up your endurance by parking your car at the far end of the lot and walking briskly to the store. Or get off the bus or train one or two stops early and walk to your destination.
  • Instead of calling or emailing a colleague, go talk in person and take the stairs when possible.
  • Take a few extra trips up and down the stairs at home to strengthen your legs and build endurance.
  • Whenever possible, do your errands on foot or by bike rather than by car.
  • When waiting in line, practice your balancing skills by standing on one food for a few seconds, and then the other.
  • When talking on the phone, do a few leg raises or toe stands to strengthen your legs.
  • Take advantage of down time to do an exercise or two. For example, while waiting for coffee to brew or laundry to dry, do a few wall push-ups or calf stretches.

If you have questions about the SIT regimen or another exercise program, talk with your health care provider. You can find a Providence provider here.


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