Finding time for exercise is difficult. Whether it’s to shed off some extra weight, or to build up your muscle mass, there doesn’t seem to be much room for rigorous workouts in modern day life. If you’re experiencing this distinctly first-world struggle, a new study published in PLOS ONE may be your saving grace.
A team of researchers at McMaster University have claimed that a single minute of very intense exercise, followed by nine minutes of light exercise, produces health benefits similar to more prolonged endurance training sessions. So if all your exercise involves fidgeting in your chair at work, fret not: Ten minutes is all you need, according to this study.
However, it should be noted that the sample size for this study was quite small, and that only men were used. A subsequent study, involving more participants of both sexes, will be required to back up these results.
“This is a very time-efficient workout strategy,” Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and coordinator of the study, said in a statement. “Brief bursts of intense exercise are remarkably effective.”
Twenty-seven men, all of whom had sedentary, inactive lifestyles, were recruited for this study, and asked to perform three weekly sessions of either intense or moderate training for at least 12 weeks. Their levels of overall cardiorespiratory fitness, along with their insulin sensitivities – an indication as to how efficiently their body regulates blood sugar levels – were assessed throughout.
The nine participants that were assigned the intense exercise regime underwent something called sprint interval training (SIT). They had to cycle as fast as they could for three 20-second sessions, interspersed with two minutes of cycling ten times less energetically, for a total of ten minutes exercise.
Ten minutes three times a week may be all you need if you’re hoping to give yourself a good health boost. Maksym Poriechkin/Shutterstock
Ten participants were asked to exercise using the more conventional, 50-minute-long moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) method. This was comprised of 45 minutes of cycling at roughly a fifth of the intensity of the peak sprint cycling involved in SIT.
Both MICT and SIT began with a two-minute warm-up and a final three-minute cool down of low-intensity cycling. A control group of six remained sedentary throughout the length of the study.
At the end of the study, the healthiness of all three groups were assessed. For both the SIT and MICT groups, peak oxygen uptake following exercise was up by 19 percent. Insulin sensitivity increases between both groups were also nearly identical: Both were moving towards a more healthy value, indicating that their ability to break down sugar had improved.
Along with several other indicators, including improved muscle functioning, it appeared that SIT was just as effective as MICT when it came to improving their cardiorespiratory health.
“Most people cite ‘lack of time’ as the main reason for not being active,” Gibala added. “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.”