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Vigorous Exercise: Can 1 Minute Be Enough?

Rosanne Ullman | May 19, 2016 | 7:18 PM
Photo By WALTER ZERLA for Healthy Hairdresser

Health blogs have been lighting up with the results from a new study that found just 1 minute of tough exercise may equal a moderate 45-minute workout. Although it’s not quite as simple as it sounds, the approach is an extreme application of high intensity interval training (HIIT), which intersperses low to moderate activity with short bursts of high-energy activity.

Exercise scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, split the participants—out-of-shape young men—into three groups. The first, a control group, didn’t change any habits. A second group rode a stationary bike at a moderate pace for 45 minutes, preceded by a two-minute warm-up and followed by a three-minute cool-down. The men in the third group did the same warm-up and cool-down, but for the workout pedaled the stationary bike as hard as they could for 20 seconds, rode very slowly for two minutes, sprinted hard again for 20 seconds, rode slowly again for two minutes and gave one more 20-second burst of top energy. Altogether, that added up to 10 minutes of being on the bike with only a total of one minute spent in high-energy activity.

Groups one and two exercised three days a week. At the end of 12 weeks, while nothing had changed in the health or fitness of the control group, the two exercising groups had matching results in improving their aerobic fitness, muscle function and blood-sugar control. In both groups, endurance increased by nearly 20 percent, insulin resistance improved significantly and function improved in muscles’ energy production and oxygen consumption. The men who pedaled for 10 minutes each time benefited as much as those who pedaled for 45 minutes each time. The 20-second, high-intensity intervals made the workouts effective—and certainly efficient.
 

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