It is getting harder and harder for adults with full-time jobs, family responsibilities, adrenal burnout, poor-sleep hygiene, and social media and TV show addictions (average American watches 34 hours a week) to get enough exercise in during the week to have significant therapeutic benefits. Common thought says one has to work out 30-60 minutes to produce a legitimate workout for our cardiovascular system and enhance overall metabolism of fat burning and weight loss. Well, there is new evidence showing that "less" exercise with 100% intensity over 60 seconds proved to be as successful at improving health and fitness as three-quarters of an hour of moderate exercise.
A rigorous study at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, recruited 25 out-of-shape young men and measured their current aerobic fitness and, as a marker of general health, their body’s ability to use insulin properly to regulate blood sugar levels. (The scientists plan to study women in subsequent experiments.) The scientists also biopsied the men’s muscles to examine how well their muscles functioned at a cellular level. (1)
The researchers randomly divided the men into three groups. One group was the control and they were asked to change nothing about their current, nonexistent, exercise routines.
A second group began a typical endurance-workout routine, consisting of riding at a moderate pace on a stationary bicycle at the lab for 45 minutes, at 70% maximal-heart rate, with a two-minute warm-up and three-minute cool down.
The final group was assigned to interval training. The volunteers warmed up for two minutes on stationary bicycles, then pedaled as hard as possible for 20 seconds at 95-100% maximal-heart rate; then rode at a very slow pace to recover for two minutes at 35% maximal-heart rate , sprinted all-out again for 20 seconds; recovered with slow riding for another two minutes; pedaled all-out for a final 20 seconds; then cooled down for three minutes. The entire workout lasted 10 minutes, with only 60 seconds of the time being strenuous.
Both exercise groups performed their respective workouts three times a week for 12 weeks. By the end of the study, the endurance group had ridden for 27 hours, while the interval group had ridden for 6 hours, with only 36 minutesof that time being strenuous.An overall difference of4.5 xless time exercising!
When the researchers added up the concluding data and retested the men’s aerobic fitness, muscle strength, and blood-sugar control, they found that the exercisers showed virtually identical gains in both the long endurance workouts and the short, strenuous intervals. In both groups, endurance had increased by nearly 20 percent, total body fat % dropped at the same rate, insulin resistance and blood sugar regulation improved significantly, and there were significant increases in the number and function of certain microscopic structures in the men’s muscles related to energy production and oxygen consumption.
The sedentary control group showed no changes in health or fitness.
There are benefits to endurance training that is not provided with the shorter interval training. But, if you are like most folks with busy schedules and are not an elite athlete, the 10 minute workout every other day will provide you with excellent health benefits. Basically, to fit this workout into the average Americans lifestyle, it will require lowering the 34 hour-weekly average of TV/ Screen time down to 33.5 hours a week. We can do this folks, let's get healthy, let's make America great again and decrease the obesity epidemic, heart disease epidemic, and diabetes epidemic that plagues this country.
In a previous blog I wrote about the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training and Sprint 8, or Peak Fitness, or Peak 8 as a way to transform our health. To provide a structure for achievable exercise goals with High Intensity exercise I have modified the study parameters listed above into the Peak 8 format, but have increased the amount of interval sets by one each week. Another change, I encourage you to perform this exercise daily for the first 4 weeks (or at least 3 x week), making the overall benefits even better than what this study has revealed.
This is the workout over an 8 week course. This will also provide you with the safest and most efficient way to build strength, endurance, and confidence.
Week 1: Daily (or 3 x week) - 2 minute warmup - 1 set of 30 seconds full intensity, 90 seconds recovery - 3 minute cool down. Total Time 7 minutes
Week 2: Daily (or 3 x week) - 2 minute warmup - 2 sets of 30 seconds full intensity, 90 seconds recovery - 3 minute cool down. Total Time 9 minutes
Week 3: Daily (or 3 x week) - 2 minute warmup - 3 sets of 30 seconds full intensity, 90 seconds recovery - 3 minute cool down - Total Time 11 minutes
Week 4: Daily (or 3 x week) - 2 minute warmup - 4 sets of 30 seconds full intensity, 90 seconds recovery - 2 minute cool down - Total Time 13 minutes
Week 5: 3 x week - 2 minute warmup - 5 sets of 30 seconds full intensity, 90 seconds recovery - 3 minute cool down - Total Time 15 minutes
Week 6: 3 x week - 2 minute warmup - 6 sets of 30 seconds full intensity, 90 seconds recovery - 3 minute cool down - Total Time 17 minutes
Week 7: 3 x week - 2 minute warmup - 7 sets of 30 seconds full intensity, 90 seconds recovery - 3 minute cool down - Total Time 19 minutes
Week 8: 3 x week - 2 minute warmup - 8 sets of 30 seconds full intensity 90 seconds recovery - 3 minute cool down - Total Time 21 minutes.
Week 9 and beyond: continue 3 x week as maintenance.
If you do not want to, or feel it is not safe to do more than 2 sets of high intensity it is perfectly beneficial to maintain at least a minimum of 2 sets of high intensity to get the benefits listed in the study. Adding more sets up to a maximum of 8 will provide you with even greater health benefits.
1. Gillen JB, Martin BJ, MacInnis MJ, Skelly LE, Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala MJ (2016) Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment. PLoS ONE 11(4): e0154075. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154075
Forest Dobbs, ND is an associate at SageMED in Bellevue, WA. At SageMED we provide In-depth knowledge of nutrigenomics, physical medicine (hands on work), kinesiology (exercise medicine), counseling, mind-body practice, herbs, and pharmaceuticals with care and personalized precision.