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Monday, June 22, 2009

Getting Fit in Six Minutes A Week

The New York Times published an interesting article about the benefits of exercise, but instead of the usual information about a minimum requirement of length of time exercised, the article presents new research indicating that perhaps it is not necessary to exercise as long as we have previously believed in order to achieve optimum results.

The question that researchers asked was whether humans can increase physical endurance with only a few minutes of strenuous exercise, instead of hours.

Ongoing research at McMaster Universtiy in Canada indicates that the answer may be yes. In a recent study, a group of college students, who were healthy but not athletes, were asked to ride a stationary bike at a sustainable pace for between 90 and 120 minutes. Another set of students grunted through a series of short, strenuous intervals: 20 to 30 seconds of cycling at the highest intensity the riders could stand. After resting for four minutes, the students pedaled hard again for another 20 to 30 seconds, repeating the cycle four to six times (depending on how much each person could stand), “for a total of two to three minutes of very intense exercise per training session.

Each of the two groups exercised three times a week. After two weeks, both groups showed almost identical increases in their endurance (as measured in a stationary bicycle time trial), even though the one group had exercised for six to nine minutes per week, and the other about five hours. Additionally, molecular changes that signal increased fitness were evident equally in both groups.

The short, intense workouts aided in weight loss, too, and other researchers have found that similar, intense, brief sessions of exercise improve cardiac health, even among people with heart disease.

Read entire article here

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