Monday, June 06, 2005

Blinded by science 

You'd have to be to believe this study, (via Lucianne). It's a story that really stands on its own, although I couldn't resist a few comments along the way.

Six minutes of exercise as good as six hours


Key points
• Study find 3 x 2-minute bursts of exercise as healthy as 3 x 2-hour workouts
• Two-minute regimes based on intense cycling
• Tests showed rate of oxygen absorption same for those doing both regimes

THE old excuse for not exercising - a lack of time - may no longer ring true, if the results of a new scientific study are correct.

Just six minutes of intense exercise a week does as much to improve a person's fitness as a training regime based on six hours, research has found.

The two-minute workout, to be undertaken three times a week, requires cycling furiously in four 30-second bursts and guarantees the same overall fitness level as moderate training regime, with three two-hourly sessions. (I love the guarantee. I've gotten one on the last four exercise programs I've tried).

Professor Martin Gibala, who lead the research, said the results surprised him.

"We thought the findings were startling because it suggests the overall volume of exercise people need to do is lower than what's recommended," he said. "We thought there would be benefits, but we did not expect them to be this obvious. It shows how effective short intense exercised can be."

Prof Gibala, from McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, said that while the training regime was not exactly enjoyable, it got results.

"We have shown that a person can get the same benefits in fitness and health in a short period if they are willing to endure the discomfort of high-intensity activity," he said.

One test subject said that, while it sounds easy, the effort involved was challenging. It's the longest 30 seconds I've ever had," he said.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, involved 23 moderately fit men and women aged between 25 and 35. They were each made to cycle 18.6 miles, as a baseline, before being split up and put on different training regimes three times a week.

The first group cycled for two hours a day at a moderate pace, the second were put through their paces at a higher intensity for just 10 minutes a day in 60 second bursts, while the third cycled at an intense sprint in 30 second bursts, with four minutes of rest in between.

At the end of two weeks, each group was again asked to cycle 18.6 miles, with the surprising result that each group was found to have improved to the same level.

Tests also showed that the rate at which the volunteers' muscles were able to absorb oxygen also improved to the same degree. The study also revealed that the two-minute workouts produced muscle enzymes essential for the prevention of type 2 diabetes in the same way that the longer workouts did.

Prof Gibala believes the research could offer hope to the desk-bound, sedentary masses.

"The excuse 'I don't have enough time to exercise', is directly challenged by these findings," he said. "This has the potential to change the way we think about keeping fit. We think there might be a public health message that you can perform intense exercise, but less volume and obtain similar benefits."

However, fitness and health specialists cautioned against suddenly trying out the experimental exercise regimes.

Amanda Hurrell, a gym manager at health club group Holmes Place and who trained at the American College of Sports Medicine, said that while intensive exercise often yields better results, it is not advisable for everyone. (My stock broker doesn't think I should do my own research, either)

"You have to think of someone's medical and exercise history," she said. "A sedentary person would not be advised to do six minutes of intensive exercise, neither would someone who was not a regular gym user. People would have to check with their doctors, and if they wanted an intense programme, would need to build up to it slowly." (Perhaps she can help devise a program to working up slowly to 6 minutes a week!)

Fitness experts also warned that the research had not tested the impact of such exercise on blood pressure, weight loss or cholesterol levels. (As a poster on Lucianne noted, call me the next time someone finishes a marathon after a 6 minute a week training regimen).


By Blogger Counter Trey, at Mon Jun 06, 11:46:00 AM:

Professor Martin Gibala must be related to the hitchhiker from "There's Something About Mary," who created the 7-minute Abs workout.  

By Blogger Van Helsing, at Mon Jun 06, 01:29:00 PM:

I'll wait until they discover that the healthiest way to exercise is to just think about exercising. Then I'll start my regimen.  

By Blogger Pedro, at Thu Jun 09, 01:08:00 PM:

This would really take 54 minutes each week. 4 x 30 second bursts plus 4 minutes in between each burst, done 3 times a week. Sounds like my, "I don't have time for exercise" excuse is still good.

Also, I'm not so ambitious as to use exercise a a way to reach marathon shape. Just less fat and kinda in shape would be good enough.  

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