If you revel in your daily run or visit to the gym, more power to you. But not everyone feels this way–some of us dread exercise, and instead have reveled in the research showing that more is not necessarily better. In fact, very small amounts of activity seem to do a great deal of good. The seven-minute workout has gotten a lot of attention for its measurable health effects. And now, according to a new study in the journal PLOS ONE, a workout including just one minute of high-intensity activity may not only do us some good, but it may be just as good as a longer moderate-intensity workout. Which will make a lot of workout-phobes very happy.
“This is a very time-efficient workout strategy,” says lead author Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University. “Brief bursts of intense exercise are remarkably effective.”
He and his team had divided 27 sedentary men into three groups. One group did a 50-minute routine, consisting of a few minutes each of warm-up and cool-down, and 45 minutes of moderate-intensity cycling, defined as 70% of their maximum heart rate. Another group did nothing to change their exercise routine, or absence thereof. The third group did a 10-minute workout, made up of two minutes of low-intensity pedaling on the stationary bike, followed by 20 seconds of all-out pedaling. This routine was repeated three times, followed by another three minutes of slower cool-down. In other words, it was 9 minutes of comfortable riding, and a total of one minute riding at top capacity.
The participants did their respective routines three times a week for 12 weeks. At the end of this time, various markers of their health were logged. Measures of insulin sensitivity, oxygen consumption and muscle function all improved for participants in both of the exercise groups–and they improved about the same amount. Not surprisingly, the health measures of people in the control group (those who didn’t change anything) didn’t improve over the 12 weeks.
“The findings in this study are very powerful as they demonstrate robust improvements in VO2 peak and insulin sensitivity,” says Gordon Fisher, University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Human Studies, who’s also done work on high-intensity exercise, but was not affiliated with the current study. “The insulin sensitivity finding is of particular interest since it was measured 72 hours after the last bout of exercise for each group. These data suggest a chronic adaptation as opposed to an acute effect from a single bout of exercise… High-intensity interval training is a mode of exercise that may yield similar or superior improvements in multiple aspects of health and also lead to greater adherence given the substantially reduced time commitment.