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A new study involving interval training suggests that these minute-long strenuous workouts may be the equivalent of standard exercise regimens lasting 45 minutes per session in terms of improving one’s health and fitness levels.
Researchers from McMaster University in Ontario claim in their study that breaking a sweat in a minute of intense exercise, or interval training, is no different than a conventional workout lasting about three-fourths of an hour. The researchers enrolled 25 young men, all considered out of shape, and each of the men’s aerobic fitness levels and blood sugar levels were measured to track general health. The participants’ muscles were biopsied so that the researchers could see how they functioned at the cellular level. Women were not involved in the study, but the McMaster team said they plan to launch future studies on interval training involving female participants.
Each of the men were then assigned into one of three groups. The first group was asked to remain on their current exercise regimen, which would be little to no exercise at all; they served as the control group. The second group was asked to go on a conventional 45-minute regimen involving use of a stationary bicycle, with two minutes of warm-up time before the pedaling and three minutes of cool-down time afterwards.
The final group received the aforementioned interval training, or just 60 seconds of intense workout; this involved a two-minute warm-up on a stationary bicycle, followed by pedaling as hard as possible for 20 seconds and a two-minute period of slow pedaling. This group then went through 20 seconds of hard pedaling, two minutes of slow pedaling, a final 20 seconds of hard pedaling, then a three-minute cool-down to complete the training session.
All the participants underwent three sessions per week for 12 weeks, and when the men had their aerobic fitness, blood sugar control, and muscles tested, the two groups asked to exercise saw similar gains in health and fitness. Endurance was up by almost 20 percent, and insulin resistance was also much-improved for both groups.
According to McMaster University professor of kinesiology Martin Gibala, who served as study lead, the choice of conventional regimens or interval training would all depend on the person.
“If you are an elite athlete, then obviously incorporating both endurance and interval training into an overall program maximizes performance,” said Gibala. “But if you are someone, like me, who just wants to boost health and fitness and you don’t have 45 minutes or an hour to work out, our data show that you can get big benefits from even a single minute of intense exercise.”