Many do not exercise because they think that they are too busy and do not have enough time to get in shape. However, even just one minute of very intense exercise provides health benefits similar to longer, conventional endurance training, according to researchers from the McMaster University in Canada.

“This is a very time-efficient workout strategy,” says study lead author Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University. “Brief bursts of intense exercise are remarkably effective.”

The study, published on April 26 in the journal PLOS ONE, looked into the health benefits of the recommended sprint interval training (SIT) and moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT). This involved recruiting 27 men who lead a sedentary lifestyle and tested some of them through three weekly sessions of either intense or moderate exercise over a period of 12 weeks.

intense exercise

Researcher Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University. Credit: McMaster University

The other participants did not undergo similar training, serving as a control group. The research team analysed the participants’ cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity, which indicates the capacity of the body to regulate blood sugar.

They found that even a shorter period of SIT resulted in the same health benefits as moderate continuous cycling for 45 minutes. This suggests that shorter exercise is just as good as the longer, traditional endurance exercise, which needs five times the effort and five times the time.

“The basic principles apply to many forms of exercise,” adds Gibala. “Climbing a few flights of stairs on your lunch hour can provide a quick and effective workout. The health benefits are significant.”

The findings support the researchers’ earlier study that showed SIT improves an individual’s fitness. SIT includes a three 20-second ‘all-out’ cycle sprints, warming-up for two minutes, two minutes of easy cycling recovery between hard sprints and a three minutes of cool-down for just a total of 10 minutes.

“Most people cite ‘lack of time’ as the main reason for not being active,” says Gibala. “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.”