Authors of a research study conducted in Norway with collaboration from scientists in Canada and the US provide evidence to the effectiveness of shorter but more intense cardio-respiratory exercise. Researchers had men ages 35-45 perform 3 workouts per week. After a 10-minute warm-up, group 1 performed 1, 4-minute bout of treadmill walking or jogging (at an incline) at 90% of maximum heart rate. Including a short cool-down, the entire workout lasted 19 minutes. Group 2 performed the same warm-up and cool-down, but instead of performing 1, 4-minute bout, they performed 4, 4-minute bouts (still at 90% of maximum heart rate) with a 3-minute active recovery in between; the entire workout lasted 40 minutes. Interestingly, researchers discovered that the shorter workouts (1, 4-minute interval) were just as effective as the longer workouts in improving VO2max (aerobic capacity), work economy, blood pressure, and fasting glucose. This adds to the growing body of literature that suggests the intensity of our cardio-respiratory exercise is more important that the duration or volume of exercise when it comes to receiving these performance and health related benefits.
Also of interest, many media outlets around the world covered this article. I was entertained but not surprised to read the many comments from readers. Most of these readers boasted about how they go to the gym and workout 6-7 days per week for 1-2 hours and that the conclusions from this study were “at least people are doing ‘something.’” Make no mistake about it; this is NOT what the researchers were investigating or concluding. Instead, the researchers were interested in answering the paramount question, “How much exercise do we really need to stimulate the changes we seek?” – Rather than, “how much exercise can we physically tolerate?”