Time – or lack thereof – is the No. 1 reason for skipping the gym. But what if you could get the health benefits of a 45-minute cardio workout in just 10 minutes? According to new research, you can!
In one of the most scientifically rigorous studies of interval training to date, researchers at McMaster University in Ontario randomly divided 25 sedentary young men into groups.
One group was instructed to ride a stationary bike at a moderate pace for 45 minutes (plus a 2-minute warm-up and 3-minute cool-down) three times a week.
A second group did three 10-minute sprint interval training workouts on stationary bikes each week. After a 2-minute warm-up, they pedaled as hard as possible for just 20 seconds, then recovered at a very slow pace for 2 minutes. They repeated this interval three times total, then cooled down at an easy pace for 3 minutes.
A third “control” group was told to maintain its current exercise program, which was virtually non-existent.
Twelve weeks later, researchers re-tested the men’s cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle function and insulin levels. Their findings: The sprint interval group experienced nearly the same improvements as the endurance group – in just 20 percent of the time.
Study researchers acknowledge that this type of intense exercise requires a very high level of motivation and is clearly not suited for everyone. “Even though saving time sounds great to all of us, short, high intensity workouts are much more likely to strain muscles or cause other injuries,” cautions Zenergy Health and Wellness Manager Tim Hanna.
Before jumping in, Hanna recommends slowly working your way up in intensity to understand how your body responds. And be sure to warm up for a full 5 to 10 minutes to make sure your body is ready for the challenge.