We all know we need to exercise to stay fit and healthy, but sometimes it's difficult to find the time. Don't worry: scientists have worked out the minimum amount of exercise you can get away with in order to get fit.
The New York Times reports that a group of researchers are turning health and fitness studies on its head, by investigating just how little exercise we really need. Turns out, as long as you're willing to work hard during your exercise, you probably don't need as much as you think.
Most world-class athletes do intervals: short, sharp bursts of strenuous activity, interspersed with rest. Inspired by that, researchers at McMaster University developed a version of high-intensity interval training that involves one minute of strenuous effort, at about 90 per cent of a person's maximum heart rate, followed by one minute of easy recovery. Their version sees that process repeated 10 times, meaning a total exercise times of 20 minutes, and is supposed to be carried out just twice a week.
But can two interval sessions a week really get you fit? Well, despite the infrequent nature of the exercise, the researchers have shown that, after several weeks of practicing it, both unfit volunteers and cardiac patients taking part in the study showed significant improvements in their health and fitness. In the words of the researchers:
"A growing body of evidence demonstrates that high-intensity interval training can serve as an effective alternate to traditional endurance-based training, inducing similar or even superior physiological adaptations in healthy individuals and diseased populations, at least when compared on a matched-work basis."
So, if anybody says that when it comes to exercise you need to do a little and often, tell them where to shove it. A better maxim might be hard and fast. [Journal of Physiology and Ne[w York TImes; Image: Rido/Shutterstock]