Here’s a bit of news that, if conclusively proven, could gladden the hearts of everybody who struggles to get into a regular exercise habit: British researchers say that short 30-second bursts of intense activity, adding up to only 3 minutes per week, duplicate the effects of much longer gym workout or track running routines.
Examples of such bursts include jumping on an exercise bike or rowing machine, or running all-out up and down some stairs for 30 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of rest. Repeat the process two times, finishing all three bursts within five minutes.
Scientists at the universities of Nottingham, Birmingham, and Bath claim, after tracking hundreds of unfit middle-aged British and Canadian volunteers over an eight-year period, that those few short minutes of weekly exercise deliver as many respiratory and cardiovascular system benefits as much longer routines.
Perhaps best of all, the researchers say that unlike longer workouts, the short burst routine leads to greater weight loss. The reason is that people who exercise for long periods often end their sessions with huge appetites, a condition that can easily lead to overeating. In contrast, shory-burst exercisers do not work out long enough to create feelings of great hunger.
Why would short, intense workouts work just as well as more extended routines? Simple, the British scientists say: Even short-duration exertion builds muscle, a key element in raising metabolic rates. As metabolisms ramp up, they burn calories and break down fat more efficiently.
The regime should also raise people’s metabolic rates after they stop exercising, as it builds muscle – and this tissue makes metabolisms run faster. In turn, this stimulates the breakdown of fat and burns calories.
The British study extends data and discussion about what is commonly referred to as high-impact interval training (HIIT). An interesting in-depth discussion of the approach is available online.