‘Just 60 seconds of exercise a day improves fitness’, study finds
DOING just 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise three times a week can help improve fitness, a study suggests.
• Fitness levels of participants rose by more than 10 per cent after high intensity training exercises (Hit)
• Hit said to have similar benefits to long-distance enduring training
Fitness levels of participants in the study improved by more than 10 per cent after two weeks of doing sequences of six-second cycling sprints, researchers say.
High intensity training (Hit) involves short bursts of exercise and is said to achieve similar results to long-distance endurance training but is much less time consuming and comes with a lower risk of injury.
Researchers tested the effectiveness of extremely short, high-intensity sprints on non-professional triathletes rather than professional sports people. But they say the results are not just relevant for people already taking part in sport.
Lead author of the study, Dr John Babraj from Abertay University’s school of social and health sciences, said: “Anyone who’s been inspired by the Olympics to get fit and be more active but perhaps thinks it’ll involve spending hours in the gym pounding the treadmill could do 60 seconds of exercise three times a week and be much fitter and healthier in only a fortnight.”
Study participants completed a 10km cycled time trial as quickly as they could.
They were then divided into two groups of six. One group did three sessions of Hit a week, during which they cycled flat out for six seconds, rested for one minute and then repeated the sprint for a total of 10 times. This amounted to 60 seconds of exercise per session, with three sessions completed each week.
The other group acted as a control.
At the end of the fortnight both groups were again asked to complete the time trial. All those who did Hit finished 10 per cent faster than before, while there was no change in performance of those in the control group.
Dr Babraj said that one of the reasons for the improved fitness is down to the effects that the six-second sprints have on the body’s ability to use a substance called lactate which appears in the bloodstream during exercise. Athletes often complain that it causes them pain.
Lactate is actually a useful fuel that the body makes during exercise to enable it to perform at a higher level for longer, but that at the end of a race the blood is often saturated with lactate because the body can’t use it up quickly enough, he said.
“In this study, we looked at the time it took for lactate to build up in the blood and found that it occurred more slowly after doing 60 seconds of short sprints.
“This suggests that the short sprints make it possible for the body to use the lactate more efficiently, and means that people who do this kind of Hit will be able to perform better in their chosen sport.”
The study, entitled “Extremely short duration, high-intensity training substantially improves endurance performance in triathletes”, appears in the October edition of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
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