- Just six minutes of intense exercise a week does as much
to improve a person's fitness as a regime of six hours, according to a
- Moderately healthy men and women could cut their workouts
from two hours a day, three times a week, to just two minutes a day and
still achieve the same results, claim medical researchers.
- The two-minute workout requires cycling furiously on
a stationary bike in four 30-second bursts. Professor Martin Gibala, the
author of the study, said: "The whole excuse that 'I don't have enough
time to exercise' is directly challenged by these findings. This has the
potential to change the way we think about keeping fit.
- "We have shown that a person can get the same benefits
in fitness and health in a much shorter period if they are willing to endure
the discomfort of high-intensity activity."
- The study, published in this month's Journal of Applied
Physiology, involved 23 men and women aged between 25 and 35 who were tested
to see how long it took them to cycle 18.6 miles. The subjects, who all
did some form of regular moderate exercise, were then given varying exercise
programmes three times a week.
- The first group cycled for two hours a day at a moderate
pace. The second group biked harder for 10 minutes a day in 60-second bursts.
The last group cycled at an intense sprint for two minutes in 30-second
bursts, with four minutes of rest in between each sprint.
- At the end of the two weeks each of the three groups
was asked to repeat the 18.6 mile cycling test. Every subject was found
to have improved to the same degree. Further tests showed that the rate
at which the subjects' muscles were able to absorb oxygen also improved
to the same level.
- The key findings in terms of overall health showed that
the two-minute workout produced the same muscle enzymes - essential for
the prevention of type 2 diabetes - as riding 10 times as long. That is
significant in the light of growing levels of unfitness. Obesity has trebled
in Britain since 1982, leading to a rise in type 2 diabetes. The Department
of Health estimates that unfit Britons cost the country £2 billion
a year in the treatment of heart disease and other related illnesses.
- Prof Gibala, of the health department of McMaster University
in Ontario, Canada, said: "We thought there would be benefits but
we did not expect them to be this obvious. It shows how effective short
intense exercise can be."
- The Sunday Telegraph put the new methods to the test
by asking three employees of the Reebok Sports Club in Canary Wharf, London,
to compare the workouts.
- Angie Du Plessis, 35, who rode for 10 minutes in 60-second
sprints, said: "It felt like I had just done an hour's run. It was
more than I was used to but I feel more exhilarated because it was so intense.
- "To be honest, it was not much fun and unless I
was really pressed for time I would not change my exercise regime."
- Chris Mackie, 23, tried the two minutes of cycling in
30-second super-bursts and found he was exhausted very quickly. He said:
"I overworked myself well beyond what I would normally do. I can't
believe it. All my energy drained so quickly.
- "It was torture, really, but I was amazed at how
short a time it took me to tire myself out completely. I didn't enjoy it
but it felt like it worked."
- Jules Wall, 27, who rode for 45 minutes at a moderate
pace, insisted that she had also received a good workout. She said: "I
am not sure I would want to go through the pain of 30-second sprints."
- Our guinea pigs were all quite fit. The authors of the
study caution that anyone considering taking up cycling or running at breakneck
speeds should first consult their doctor or a fitness instructor.
- David Crottie, a fitness expert for Reebok, was confident
that the programme would be effective for anyone with the correct preparation:
"We have never tried it to this intensity before but I agree with
- "Most people do not want to do it because it is
so uncomfortable, but for those willing to endure the intensity it would
- Jonathan Edwards, the Olympic triple-jump gold medallist,
said: "Everyone seems to be short of time. If people could get fit
in a much quicker period I am sure that would encourage more people to
- "Going for a 40-minute run is not for everybody.
The idea of going and doing a short intense workout would appeal to people
and help them to embrace a healthier lifestyle."
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.