No one wants to spend their entire day in the gym to get results. Unless you make your living in the gym or on the field of play, it’s not practical or necessary. A current trend is developing that involves short workouts, and science is catching up to these time-crunched training sessions, proving that less can be more.
Short workouts, like HIIT or Tabata, can give the same amount of physiological benefit as workouts twice or three times as long. A 2006 study by Martin Gibala, a physiologist at McMaster University in Ontario, showed that a 3-minute sequence on a stationary bicycle — 30 seconds of maximal effort pedaling, followed by a brief rest, repeated five or six times — led to the same health benefits as 90 to 120 minutes of steady-state cycling.
Sounds great, right? Wait – what exactly are those benefits, anyways? Some of the benefits are improved endurance capacity (read: making the engine under the hood bigger), better blood pressure, and even a reduction in blood sugar levels after exercise. For those individuals worried about cardiovascular disease and the risk factors, it might be beneficial to add some short, but difficult, workouts to the weekly routine.
Dr. Gibala adds some words of caution and encouragement to those interested in short, yet difficult, exercise training: “For now, if you’d like to try a high-intensity session, first visit a doctor for clearance, then simply push yourself very hard during your next workout, whether it is running, cycling or Zumba.”
There isn’t a magic number for the maximum health benefits and interval times, but it seems like around 60 seconds of hard effort, with the same amount of gentle recovery, seems to be effective. If you complete 10 such intervals three times a week for a total of 30 minutes of strenuous effort, Dr. Gibala says that “our data would indicate you’ll be in pretty good shape.”
If you’re looking for more ways to incorporate short workouts into your routine, check out these examples from the Huffington Post. They range from 5 minutes to 30 minutes, so however much time you have, there’s a workout for you!