Looking for a way to get fit but don’t have a lot of time to spare? Sounds familiar. With the busy lives we all lead, it’s tough to find time to get to the gym for a full hour of training. It’s often easier to work out at home, walk in the park, or do some other form of exercise. Sadly, we don’t get the results we want.
But, research out of Canada found that just three minutes of High-Intensity Training (HIT) exercise per week might be enough to make a serious difference. Medical journalist, Dr. Michael Mosley, appeared on BBC TV in 2012, and he used the information discovered in a Canadian study to prove that just a few minutes of exercise each week can be more effective than spending hours at the gym.
A team of researchers from Ontario’s McMaster University studied college students to determine the effectiveness of HIT and found that doing “all-out” sprint training (cycling at 95% intensity) was a highly efficient way to get in a full workout in a fraction of the time.
Adding to this information was the research of Jamie Timmons, professor of aging biology, at the UK’s Birmingham University. This research indicated that intervals of 20 seconds at maximum intensity were enough to obtain the benefits of HIT without pushing the body too hard. This option provides older, overweight, and less fit exercisers with a safer option for their exercise. The workout was simple:
- Warm up for a few minutes.
- Perform three intervals of 2 minutes of cycling.
- Follow with 20 seconds of full sprints.
Performed three times a week, this HIT workout can yield results, as Mosley discovered.
After four weeks of this HIT training, his insulin sensitivity had increased by 24%. While it didn’t improve his fitness, participants in other studies have discovered improvements in their aerobic capacity, oxygen uptake, and cardiovascular endurance.
Now, before you head out to your nearest gym to take up HIT training, be warned: it’s not for the faint of heart. Literally. If you have heart problems, it’s best to check with your doctor before undertaking this high-intensity training. Pushing your heart too hard can lead to serious health problems.
However, for the average person, just a few minutes of high-intensity exercise per week may be enough to see some serious improvements in your fitness, weight loss, and insulin sensitivity.
1. “The Truth About Exercise“, BBC Horizon broadcast episode 8 of 15, 9:00PM Tue, 28 Feb 2012; MNT Archives.
2. James A. Timmons et al., “Using Molecular Classification to Predict Gains in Maximal Aerobic Capacity Following Endurance Exercise Training in Humans,” Journal of Applied Physiology 108/6 (2010): 1487-96.