Exercise minimalism – this little is needed

It is a commonly held misconception that getting and staying in shape requires hard work and hours upon hours of training. In today’s society many of us feel the burden of all the requirements and expectations and the constant feeling of too little time. Not seldomly, this goes beyond regular exercise routines – and training adds to the list of things you should have done, but that simply are dropped in favor of other, more urgent tasks. But does it really need to be this way? Is it possible to get both worlds – overcome enough training to achieve health benefit from it, without sacrificing other stuff?

AtefeNew research shows that just one hour of exercise a week for a period of two weeks is enough to observe improvements. The key to training effect on health is not duration, but the intensity of the workout. You don’t have to train long, but once you do, go hard. In our laboratory we advise people to train with 4×4 interval training as a starting point. However, we have even observed that interval workouts with shorter duration are almost as effective in increasing maximal oxygen uptake as longer sessions. These short sessions consists of only one 4-minute interval of 90-95% of maximum heart rate. Maximal oxygen uptake is known as a key factor related to the risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

But there are also other options for shorter training sessions with high intensity. Dr. Martin Gibala of McMaster University in Canada is a world leader in the science of training with high intensity training, and has in recent years tested several different protocols in terms of health effects. According to Gibala, it is surprising how little training volume required to elicit a positive response. He recommends 60 second intervals at 90% of maximum heart rate followed by 60 seconds of rest, a total of 10 repetitions (1×10). Gibala’s research group found that just 60 minutes of high intensity exercise per week (amounting to three 1×10 workouts per week) improved glucose handling and insulin sensitivity remarkably among sedentary men and women.

So our clear call is: Lack of time is no excuse to skip exercise! Anyone can set aside at least four minutes of their precious time three times per week and invest in their health. Who knows how much time is lost in the future if you do not?

Nina Zisko, research fellow at CERG

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