Can a Minute of Exercise Boost Health?
If time challenges are the reason why you often miss or skip exercise, then this new study may offer a stellar solution. The research suggests that one minute of vigorous exercise three times a week can replace longer, conventional endurance training.
The research recently published in the journal PLOS One, was led by Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario Canada. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise every week, or a combination of both. Unfortunately, CDC statistics suggests that less than half of all U.S. adults meet these guidelines. Lack of time is one of the more common excuses for not meeting (even close to) these goals.
This new research suggests that you can substitute short bursts of intense exercise some of the time to get the same benefits. A prior study had shown that SIT or sprint interval training produced significant health benefits. In that study, a ten minute program was devised with two minutes of low intensity cycling followed by a 20 second all out cycle sprint and it was repeated three times. There was a two minute warm up and three minute cooldown.
HIIT has also been confirmed as a way to shorten an exercise routine while still getting a big health benefit payoff.
In the new study, the research team compared SIT to a moderate-intensity continuous training program (MICT). This program involved a 50 minute cycling program, moderate pace, which included a two minute warm up and 3 minute cooldown. Twenty seven subjects who were matched for BMI, age, and measures of oxygen consumption (VO2 peak) participated. Some of the men were assigned three weekly sessions of SIT and some were assigned MICT for twelve weeks while the rest remained a control group performing no exercise.
At the end of the 12 week training program the researchers found that both the SIT exercisers and the MICT exercisers experienced similar health benefits in cardiorespiratory fitness, insulin sensitivity (sugar regulation), and levels of mitochondria in the skeletal muscle. It should be noted that reduced mitochondrial content in the skeletal muscles has been linked to poor insulin sensitivity and poor metabolic health.
From the results, the lead researcher postulate that engaging in just one minute of vigorous exercise three times a week is equal to the 150 minute recommendation in the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
It is however recommended to try and perform some shorter vigorous activity weekly, mixed in with some longer duration, more moderate exercise for other reasons like weight balance.