1 Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/27/1-minute-of-all-out-exercise-may-equal-45-minutes-of-moderate-exertion/

For many of us, the most pressing question about exercise is: How little can I get away with? The answer, according to a sophisticated new study of interval training, may be very, very little. In this new experiment, in fact, 60 seconds of strenuous exertion proved to be as successful at improving health and fitness as three-quarters of an hour of moderate exercise.

Let me repeat that finding: One minute of arduous exercise was comparable in its physiological effects to 45 minutes of gentler sweating.

I have been writing for some time about the potential benefits of high-intensity interval training, a type of workout that consists of an extremely draining but brief burst of exercise — essentially, a sprint — followed by light exercise such as jogging or resting, then another sprint, more rest, and so on.

Athletes rely on intervals to improve their speed and power, but generally as part of a broader, weekly training program that also includes prolonged, less-intense workouts, such as long runs.

But in the past few years, exercise scientists and many of the rest of us have become intrigued by the idea of exercising exclusively with intervals, ditching long workouts altogether.

The allure of this approach is obvious. Interval sessions can be short, making them a boon for anyone who feels that he or she never has enough time to exercise.

Previously, I have written about a number of different interval programs, involving anywhere from 10 minutes of exhausting intervals in a single session to seven minutes, six, four and even fewer. Each program had scientific backing. But because of time and funding constraints, most studies of interval training have had limits, such as not including a control group, being of short duration or studying only health or fitness results, not both.

Consequently, fundamental questions have remained unanswered about just how well these very short, very intense workouts really stack up against traditional, endurance-style training.

So scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who had themselves conducted many of those earlier studies of interval training, decided recently to mount probably the most scientifically rigorous comparison to date of super-short and more-standard workouts.

They began by recruiting 25 out-of-shape young men and measuring 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 also biopsied the men’s muscles to examine how well their muscles functioned at a cellular level.

Then the researchers randomly divided the men into three groups. (The scientists plan to study women in subsequent experiments.) One group was asked to change nothing about their current, virtually nonexistent exercise routines; they would be the controls.

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, with a two-minute warm-up and three-minute cool down.

The final group was assigned to interval training, using the most abbreviated workout yet to have shown benefits. Specifically, the volunteers warmed up for two minutes on stationary bicycles, then pedaled as hard as possible for 20 seconds; rode at a very slow pace for two minutes, 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 one minute of that time being strenuous.

Both groups of exercising volunteers completed three sessions each week for 12 weeks, a period of time that is about twice as long as in most past studies of interval training.

By the end of the study, published in PLOS One, the endurance group had ridden for 27 hours, while the interval group had ridden for six hours, with only 36 minutes of that time being strenuous.

But when the scientists retested the men’s aerobic fitness, muscles and blood-sugar control now, they found that the exercisers showed virtually identical gains, whether they had completed the long endurance workouts or the short, grueling intervals. In both groups, endurance had increased by nearly 20 percent, insulin resistance likewise had improved significantly, and there were significant increases in the number and function of certain microscopic structures in the men’s muscles that are related to energy production and oxygen consumption.

There were no changes in health or fitness evident in the control group.

The upshot of these results is that three months of concerted endurance or interval exercise can notably — and almost identically — improve someone’s fitness and health.

Neither approach to exercise was, however, superior to the other, except that one was shorter — much, much shorter.

Is that reason enough for people who currently exercise moderately or not at all to begin interval training as their only workout?

“It depends on who you are and why you exercise,” said Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University who oversaw the new study.

“If you are an elite athlete, then obviously incorporating both endurance and interval training into an overall program maximizes performance. 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.”
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Replies

  • mom23mangos
    mom23mangos Posts: 3,072 Member
    It would be interesting to see how it affected fat loss.
  • stealthq
    stealthq Posts: 4,298 Member
    They didn't evaluate specific changes in cardiovascular fitness, either. Stroke volume, heart size, heart rate, including rate of decrease would have been interesting. Proliferation of capillaries, increases in blood volume, etc.
  • Raptor2763
    Raptor2763 Posts: 390 Member
    I like the way this article stated the study's conclusions - simple and straightforward. If you have time - go the moderate route. If you don't - intensify the workouts.
  • _Waffle_
    _Waffle_ Posts: 13,051 Member
    Athletes rely on intervals to improve their speed and power, but generally as part of a broader, weekly training program that also includes prolonged, less-intense workouts, such as long runs.

    Let's not overlook that "less-intense" long runs for athletes could mean that they're running 16 miles at an 8:00 pace. While it's less intense for them it's by no means a non-taxing exercise. Apples and oranges comparison to selecting out of shape people to exercise at a "less-intense" effort.

    At any rate they're saying that out of shape people working out till they're about to drop dead for 10 minutes is as effective as out of shape people working out casually for 45 minutes. I'm okay with that.
  • Mlund95
    Mlund95 Posts: 5 Member
    That's a very interesting read! It's hard to believe that you could really get much done in just one minute though, but maybe the implications of that, and pushing that into 5 or 10 minutes, would be amazing!
  • SideSteel
    SideSteel Posts: 11,069 Member
    A good thing to keep in mind is that HIIT has a much, much greater recovery component to it, and consequently it can be challenging to incorporate it into an overall fitness program.

    I'd also argue that it not be a good fit for some people.

    Interesting study though.

    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075
  • shor0814
    shor0814 Posts: 559 Member
    Curious how long this equivalency lasts. Does it taper off after the "newbie gains." A good follow up study would be moderate to intermediatelyrics healthy people and if the same results happen. That would be a real breakthrough.
  • jofjltncb6
    jofjltncb6 Posts: 34,421 Member
    How many of the subjects were athletes? Or even just moderately fit people?
  • ShodanPrime
    ShodanPrime Posts: 226 Member
    Imagine the benefits of 45 minutes of arduous exercise.
  • ShodanPrime
    ShodanPrime Posts: 226 Member
    jofjltncb6 wrote: »
    How many of the subjects were athletes? Or even just moderately fit people?

    Likely goose egg on that one.
  • Jruzer
    Jruzer Posts: 3,501 Member
    jofjltncb6 wrote: »
    How many of the subjects were athletes? Or even just moderately fit people?

    From the OP and the article:
    They began by recruiting 25 out-of-shape young men and measuring their current aerobic fitness and, as a marker of general health, their body’s ability to use insulin properly to regulate blood sugar levels.
  • gdyment
    gdyment Posts: 299 Member
    Their 1 minute of work was still a 10 minute workout. And on a BIKE, doing 45 minutes light/moderate doesn't do very much (we know this already since it's not a weight-bearing activity). Same with swimming - you just putter around moderately not much happens.

    If they had tried that experiment with running you'd have a lot of very injured test subjects on the sprint side.
  • kelseyframe91
    kelseyframe91 Posts: 37 Member
    Very interesting read. At the moment I'm on a calorie controlled diet and doing 45 mins to 1h30mins of excersise a day. How many calories do you burn typically doing this 'All Out' excersise as opposed to what I'm doing I wonder. Any answers. Thanks
  • jimmmer
    jimmmer Posts: 3,535 Member
    edited April 2016
    I'm personally of the opinion that taking untrained people and making them do maximum effort with movements they are unskilled with is a recipe for disaster.

    I'd build a beginner up with a strength, cardio and skill base and then, later, layer on more power/explosive/hard interval type work.

    Getting someone who moves badly to start with to move badly, but much quicker is an approach I'm not a fan of. Leave highly ballistic stuff for more intermediate trainees...
  • TR0berts
    TR0berts Posts: 7,739 Member
    That just may be most click-baitiest of click-bait titles ever. Let me know when one actual minute of exercise is performed - not 10 minutes of HIIT.
  • blues4miles
    blues4miles Posts: 1,481 Member
    _Waffle_ wrote: »
    Athletes rely on intervals to improve their speed and power, but generally as part of a broader, weekly training program that also includes prolonged, less-intense workouts, such as long runs.

    Let's not overlook that "less-intense" long runs for athletes could mean that they're running 16 miles at an 8:00 pace. While it's less intense for them it's by no means a non-taxing exercise. Apples and oranges comparison to selecting out of shape people to exercise at a "less-intense" effort.

    At any rate they're saying that out of shape people working out till they're about to drop dead for 10 minutes is as effective as out of shape people working out casually for 45 minutes. I'm okay with that.

    I agree. Also think too often people think "long easy runs" have some super low HR. Even on my "easy" runs my HR is typically 80-85% of my max. I'd rather go on a 40 minute "easy" run than kill myself sprinting/walking/sprinting/walking for 10 minutes. But I agree, sprinting/walking for 10 minutes is probably about as equally effective as my 45 min - 1 hour ambling walks. Sometimes I'd just rather take that walk though. And the researchers didn't look into mental health benefits of longer activity...
  • Azdak
    Azdak Posts: 8,281 Member
    It's somewhat misleading to state "exercise benefits in one minute" when the workout lasted 10 minutes. What was happening in the other 9 minutes also added to the workout benefits.

    I have seen a similar study that looked at an interval workout that lasted for 20 minutes and consisted of 5 or 6 all-out 30 second cycle sprints with easy cycling of 40-50% effort in between. When you averaged out the workload, it was the equivalent of doing the entire workout at a moderately aerobic pace.

    I would be curious to see what some of these studies showed over longer periods of time and with more fit individuals working at higher intensities. If you take untrained subjects, there will be less separation after 3 months because people will respond well to almost anything if they are beginners. Also, for research purposes, these studies have to compare the harder interval workout with very moderate low-level workouts, not tempo workouts or time trials.

    In any case, these studies are important to broaden our knowledge of the dose-response effects of exercise training and can give people more options for maintaining a workout program.
  • jofjltncb6
    jofjltncb6 Posts: 34,421 Member
    Jruzer wrote: »
    jofjltncb6 wrote: »
    How many of the subjects were athletes? Or even just moderately fit people?

    From the OP and the article:
    They began by recruiting 25 out-of-shape young men and measuring their current aerobic fitness and, as a marker of general health, their body’s ability to use insulin properly to regulate blood sugar levels.

    You had no way of knowing this, but my question was rhetorical. It's a common theme in studies like these to use out of shape subjects...and then a bunch of not out of shape people extrapolate the results and argue it's applicable to them too.
  • jofjltncb6
    jofjltncb6 Posts: 34,421 Member
    jimmmer wrote: »
    I'm personally of the opinion that taking untrained people and making them do maximum effort with movements they are unskilled with is a recipe for disaster.

    I'd build a beginner up with a strength, cardio and skill base and then, later, layer on more power/explosive/hard interval type work.

    Getting someone who moves badly to start with to move badly, but much quicker is an approach I'm not a fan of. Leave highly ballistic stuff for more intermediate trainees...

    No worries.

    I'm sure they signed a waiver.