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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Just How Much Exercise Do You Need?

In case you aren't abreast of the latest trend in fitness science, let me bring you up-to-date. Athletes have been using interval training for decades, but the new scientific evidence is turning things upside down.

Many scientists now believe you can get as much good from one minute of exercise as you can from 45 minutes' worth. That's right, I said ONE MINUTE.

Female runner

I think that's just a bit misleading. In fact, you're working out for more than one minute... but it's broken down into three or more intense spurts of hard work, with a few minutes of much easier exercise in-between. Still, we're talking about cutting your workout time by a factor of three or more. Wouldn't you like to cram that 30-minute running or cycling workout into only 7 minutes or so?

Here are links to a couple of articles on the New York Times website that will help you understand what's going on:
  • The first is a general overview of the new research called 1 Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion. Again, I think that title's a bit misleading but the article does explain things pretty well. Read this one first to get a handle on the new paradigm.
  • The other article is called Really, Really Short Workouts and it has links to a number of different ways you can try this new approach to interval training. There are 10-minute, 7-minute, 4-minute and 10-20-30 second (yes, you read that correctly) training programs, among other types. Think of this as a grab bag of possibilities.
Before you run out and try any of these workouts, you need to understand that these are STRESSFUL workouts. The shorter the workout, the closer to all-out effort you need to expend. That means you should probably see a doctor first, especially before you try the shortest workouts. High-intensity interval training -- which several of your favorite pros are already using -- is challenging and takes a lot of concentration.

You just don't have to concentrate for quite as long, that's all. And for some of us, that may be all it takes to get us working out more -- uh, less.


  1. Excellent post. I have an M.S. in Exercise Science and work with this stuff daily, and this is something that has been on our radars in the academic world for some time now. You are correct that the "one minute of exercise" idea is a bit misleading, but the general concept of working harder for shorter periods of time (i.e. interval training) to achieve the same (or even greater) health benefits is absolutely valid and is a great addition to many exercise routines, not just for professional athletes.

    1. Thanks for the input, Morton. Sometimes the gap between new scientific knowledge and the general knowledge that most of us have can be pretty large... and a little intimidating as well. It's always good to have someone more knowledgeable add some perspective.