Do you ever wonder how long you have to exercise to get any benefits? Some days you might not have the time to do an hours exercise or more but think you must to keep up your fitness or sporting goal.
How little exercise can you actually get away with? The answer, according to an interval training study, is a 60 second workout that was of strenuous exertion can be as good as forty five minutes of moderate exercise.
Sound too good to be true? Well, a group of scientists in Ontario decided to test out this theory of short intense workouts compared to standard ones.
Read on to see if you could remove long workouts from your exercise regime.
Athletes rely on intervals to improve their speed and power, but generally as part of a broader, weekly training program that also includes prolonged, less-intense workouts, such as long runs.
So scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario decided recently to mount probably the most scientifically rigorous comparison to date.
They began by recruiting 25 out-of-shape young men and measuring their current aerobic fitness and, as a marker of general health, their body’s ability to use insulin properly to regulate blood sugar levels. The scientists also biopsied the men’s muscles to examine how well their muscles functioned at a cellular level.
Then the researchers randomly divided the men into three groups. One group was asked to change nothing about their current, virtually nonexistent exercise routines; they would be the controls.
A second group began a typical endurance-workout routine, consisting of riding at a moderate pace on a stationary bicycle at the lab for 45 minutes, with a two-minute warm-up and three-minute cool down.
The final group was assigned to interval training, using the most abbreviated workout yet to have shown benefits. Specifically, the volunteers warmed up for two minutes on stationary bicycles, then pedaled as hard as possible for 20 seconds; rode at a very slow pace for two minutes, sprinted all-out again for 20 seconds; recovered with slow riding for another two minutes; pedaled all-out for a final 20 seconds; then cooled down for three minutes. The entire workout lasted 10 minutes, with only one minute of that time being strenuous.
Both groups of exercising volunteers completed three sessions each week for 12 weeks, a period of time that is about twice as long as in most past studies of interval training.
By the end of the study, published in PLOS One, the endurance group had ridden for 27 hours, while the interval group had ridden for six hours, with only 36 minutes of that time being strenuous.
But when the scientists retested the men’s aerobic fitness, muscles and blood-sugar control now, they found that the exercisers showed virtually identical gains, whether they had completed the long endurance workouts or the short, grueling intervals. In both groups, endurance had increased by nearly 20 percent, insulin resistance likewise had improved significantly, and there were significant increases in the number and function of certain microscopic structures in the men’s muscles that are related to energy production and oxygen consumption.
There were no changes in health or fitness evident in the control group.
The upshot of these results is that three months of concerted endurance or interval exercise can notably — and almost identically — improve someone’s fitness and health.
Neither approach to exercise was, however, superior to the other, except that one was shorter — much, much shorter.
Is that reason enough for people who currently exercise moderately or not at all to begin interval training as their only workout?
“It depends on who you are and why you exercise,” said Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University who oversaw the new study.
“If you are an elite athlete, then obviously incorporating both endurance and interval training into an overall program maximizes performance. But if you are someone, like me, who just wants to boost health and fitness and you don’t have 45 minutes or an hour to work out, our data show that you can get big benefits from even a single minute of intense exercise.”