Has It Come To This? A One-Minute Workout?


Sudden bursts of intense exercise, also known as high-impact interval training or HIIT, have been shown to lead to a greater degree of physical fitness than ever before thought possible.

Past studies have shown that even 10 to 15 minutes of HIIT can lead to significant improvement in a person’s overall health and fitness. Adding a 10-minute warm-up and another 5-10 minute cool-down brings the total workout time to closer to 30-minutes—still not much, but many find it difficult to carve out even half an hour of sweat time in their busy day.

This cultural time crunch, combined with the recent success of HIIT, led Martin Gibala a Professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, to wonder what the least amount of time might be necessary to receive the benefits of high-intensity training. Could a person practice a mere 1-minute of intense exercise, sandwiched among a few other minutes of warming up and cooling down, and still stand to benefit?

Gibala set up a study wherein researchers took muscle biopsies from 14 overweight, sedentary (but otherwise healthy) adult volunteers. They then measured their aerobic endurance, blood pressures and blood sugar levels.

As an article in the NYTimes explains, the volunteers were then asked to...

…complete a truly time-efficient, interval-training program using computerized stationary bicycles. Each session consisted of three 20-second “all-out” intervals, during which riders pushed the pedals absolutely as hard as they could manage, followed by two minutes of slow, easy pedaling. The riders also warmed up for two minutes and cooled down for three, for a grand total of 10 minutes of total exercise time, with one minute of that being the intense interval training.”

They continued this routine three times a week for a total of six weeks before being retested.

The results were surprising and encouraging. Men saw improvement in their blood sugar levels. Women didn’t see a change in that area, but they (and men) increased their overall endurance by 12 percent.

They also, as a group, had healthier blood pressures and higher levels within their muscles of certain biochemical substances that increase the number and activity of mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of cells, so more mitochondria mean better endurance and fitness.”

So if you only have a minute (well, really 10 including warm-up and cool-down) during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, don’t hesitate to go for it.


Read all articles by Juniper Briggs

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