As we know, HIIT (high intensity interval training) has been the buzz in our industry for a few years now. The benefits of intense bursts of activity interspersed with rest periods have been well documented. Naturally, exercise that is both fast and effective holds appeal to those for whom time is a precious commodity (i.e. most of us). Nevertheless, this type of class generally still takes place within a half-hour or so format. But could that be trimmed down to just a few minutes? The findings of a recent study suggest it could.
Researchers led by Martin Gibala, professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, found that short bursts of intense exercise are just as beneficial as longer endurance training.
For the study, 27 sedentary men were assigned to one of three groups: sprint interval training (SIT), moderate intensity continuous training (MICT), or a no-exercise control group.
For 12 weeks the exercise groups undertook three training session per week. The SIT group’s training was a 10-minute program including three 20-second cycle sprints, interspersed with two minutes of low-intensity cycling, along with a 2-minute warm up and 3-minute cool down.
The MICT group’s training was a 50-minute program including a 2-minute warm-up, 45 minutes of cycling at a moderate pace, and a 3-minute cool down.
At the conclusion of the study, participants in both exercise groups were found to have experienced similar health gains, including improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, insulin sensitivity and levels of mitochondria in skeletal muscle.
Gibala noted: ‘Most people cite ‘lack of time’ as the main reason for not being active. Our study shows that an interval-based approach can be more efficient – you can get health and fitness benefits comparable to the traditional approach, in less time.’
They say that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Probably – but not definitely. Would you swap 2½ hours of weekly training for ½ hour a week if it gave you comparable results?
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