One Minute of Exercise Might Be All You Need to Get in Shape, Study Says

Last Update: September 16, 2020

Attention SoulCycle groupies—you’re about to save a lot of money.

A brand new study out of McMaster University in Ontario found that 60 seconds of strenuous exercise proved to be just as effective at improving health and fitness as 45 minutes of moderate exertion.

No, it’s not too good to be true. In fact, other recent research has sung the praises of high-intensity interval training, which involves short bursts of hard work (like sprints) followed by longer intervals of lower-intensity work (like a jog). Some of the benefits: better endurance, increased fat loss, and lower insulin resistance levels.

This new study wanted to measure both the benefits of interval workouts compared to traditional exercise and find the shortest duration of workout time that could still be considered effective.

Researchers experimented with three groups of out-of-shape men: The control group continued as usual, avoiding exercise; a second group did a 45-minute cycling workout on a stationary bike (at a moderate pace) three times a week; and the third group completed a short interval training workout three times a week.

Participants in group three pedaled at a moderate speed for two minutes to warm up, worked as hard as they possibly could for 20 seconds, then recovered by pedaling very slowly for two more minutes. They repeated 20 seconds on, two minutes off twice more, finishing with a longer, three-minute cool down as the final “off” segment. All together, the entire workout lasted 10 minutes, with  just one cumulative minute of hard work.

Here’s the really interesting part: Group two (who did more traditional 45-minute workout sessions) and group three had almost identical improvements in their overall health and wellness. Both groups increased endurance by 20 percent, improved insulin resistance, and saw their muscles use energy and oxygen more efficiently.

This means that for busy, regular people who want to stay healthy (and climb a flight of stairs without getting out of breath), just a minute of intense exercise three times a week could replace those long and tedious treadmill runs. Good news for those of us who always feel “too busy” to fit in a workout.

If you love long training sessions, keep doing them. Just know that when working toward a fitness goal like a race or event, adding intervals into your training could be beneficial. Martin Gibala, the professor who oversaw the study, told The New York Times that for athletes, “incorporating both endurance and interval training into an overall program maximizes performance.” The new study is good for everyone—and makes getting fit seem a whole lot easier.

Photo credit: Alicia Cho

This article is related to:

Body Hacks, Fitness, Health, News, Workout

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Michelle Pellizzon

Certified health coach and endorphin enthusiast, Michelle is an expert in healthy living and eating. When she's not writing you can find her running trails, reading about nutrition, and eating lots of guacamole.

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