Let’s All Pretend We Can Get in Shape in One Minute

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Photo: Peter Dazeley

Remember when we pretended Champagne was good for us right before the holidays? That was so fun and well-timed! Here’s another convenient mental exercise involving actual exercise, and right before swimsuit season. It couldn’t be better. Ready? One minute of hard exercise may have the same benefits of 45 minutes of moderate exercise. (Seven minutes and four minutes seem interminable now.)

This is coming from a new study, of course. For a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, Canadian researchers rounded up 27 out-of-shape men and measured their aerobic fitness and insulin response and biopsied their muscles before splitting them into three groups. The first was told to change nothing about their routines (lucky) while the other two were assigned stationary-bike workouts to do in a lab three times a week.

Half of them biked for 45 minutes at a moderate pace; the other half did a short interval workout consisting of three 20-second sprints followed by two minutes of recovery, repeating that pattern three times, for a total of ten minutes. Both groups also did a two-minute warm-up and a three-minute cool-down.

After 12 weeks, they tested everyone’s health markers again and, lo and behold, the exercisers “showed virtually identical gains” despite their wildly different routines. In previous studies, this group of researchers from McMaster University determined that the torture known as high-intensity interval training (or HIIT) really can help people get fit in less time, but this is their first to compare HIIT to moderate, steady-state cardio over a solid length of time. They do plan to repeat the experiment with women, which is helpful since men seem to be able to look at a dumbbell and gain muscle.

Lead study author Martin Gibala told the New York Times, “If you are someone, like me, who just wants to boost health and fitness and you don’t have 45 minutes or an hour to work out, our data show that you can get big benefits from even a single minute of intense exercise.” Well, there’s also the other 9 minutes of moderate exercise, but 10 minutes is still better than 45.