Can You Really Get A Good Workout In A Short And Intense Moment?


HIIT , or high-intensity interval training, is popular among fitness fanatics. The sessions are short, effective and leave you sweaty. But are they really better than a 60-minute run?

In the widely reported study earlier this year (with the irresistible 1-minute exercise headline), researchers from McMaster University found that a 10-minute workout could be just as effective as a 45-minute one

TODAY’s Sheinelle Jones was up for the challenge: she tested the effectiveness of fast, or HIIT, workouts for three weeks.

“If you’re willing and able to go hard, it would appear that you can get away with a surprisingly small dose of exercise and still boost your fitness,” said Martin Gibala, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University and lead researcher of the study.

Gibala created a program for Sheinelle to try. Her goal? To boost her cardiovascular fitness and increase the oxygen capacity of her lungs. She performed 10-minute workouts, three times a week. One minute of each workout would be high intensity, broken into 20-second bursts.

At the end of three weeks, her results were impressive: Sheinelle increased her V02 max (maximal aerobic capacity) from 26 to 27.5, which could be equivalent to a one-inch body change according to Gibala. Could this work-plan work for you? According to Dr. Jordan Metzl, it’s a routine anyone could follow.

In the study Gibala led earlier this year, researchers split men in their mid-to-late 20’s into three groups: the first group didn’t exercise at all, the second had workouts where they biked for 45 minutes at a steady pace, and the third group did 10-minute workouts consisting of a warm-up and three 20-second sprints on a bike, followed by two minutes of slow pedaling.

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It’s important to note that none of these groups worked out for only one minute — though the 10-minute workout was the shortest.

Three months into the new routines, researchers performed a series of tests on the participants. And what they found was fascinating.

“We looked at aerobic fitness (how well the lungs used oxygen), insulin sensitivity (the ability of your body to process blood sugar — a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes), and muscle content (how efficiently your muscles use oxygen to produce energy),” said Gibala. “And after three months, the two groups of exercisers saw the exact same improvements.”

In other words, the group that worked out for 45 minutes wasn’t any more fit than the group that exercised for 10 minutes.

But before you replace all of your workouts with super-abbreviated versions, there are a few caveats.

“While we found that both groups had a slight but significant reductions in body fat percentages, we didn’t look at any other factors like whether both kinds of workouts had the same impact on stress levels or mood,” says Gibala. “People work out for many reasons and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to workouts, so this might not be the answer for everyone.”

Sheinelle noted that the 10-minute workout didn’t allow her to clear her mind the way a longer run or bike ride might.

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