Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
Ever since the Scientific 7-Minute Workout hit the fitness scene last year, we’ve been eyeing how to effectively shrink our sweat time. A new study published in the journal Biology adds to growing research that looks into exactly how little exercise we can get away with — and still reap the benefits.
The findings: Performing an 11-minute workout (which includes only 60 seconds of intense effort) twice a week, can improve aerobic capacity and metabolic health. That’s a far cry from the American Heart Association recommendation of 150 minutes per week.
The researchers asked a group of three males and 11 females, none of whom had a regular fitness routine, to follow a twice-per-week, high-intensity training (HIT) program. Each HIT workout consisted of six sprints on a stationary bike, followed by a minute of passive recovery interval, repeated 10 times, totaling 11 minutes (no warm-up or cool-down included).
The workout was short but not so sweet. It wasn’t your "hop on a bike and zone out to Law and Order" type deal — the effort was tough despite its brevity. The researchers kept tabs on blood-sugar levels, aerobic capacity (how long it took to reach exhaustion on a stationary bike), and physical function (how quickly participants could complete everyday tasks, like carrying heavy bags). At the end of the eight-week study, participants showed improvements across all markers.
The study size was small and only looked at middle-aged men and women, who didn't already hit the gym regularly, but it’s not the first to address the overall health benefits of short, intense workouts. You’ve probably heard of Tabata, and other research showing that high-intensity training can help prevent and control hypertension, increase post-workout calorie burn, and improve the ability to burn carbs and fat, when compared to traditional, longer, endurance training.
Depending on your goal, two minutes a week might not cut it, but when you’re crunched for time, the study backs up the notion that something is better than nothing. So, log those few minutes when that’s all you’ve got — it will pay off.