Ever feel like you just absolutely don’t have time for exercise? Where you’re so busy that you never have time to go to the gym? Or even the time to eat lunch and walk around the block (like you keep telling yourself you’re going to do). You may not have time for an hour at the gym, a 30-minute fitness class, or even a 10-minute walk but everyone has a minute to spare. Like literally one minute.
If you’re one of those busy people, the good news today is that a study in European Journal of Applied Physiology has found that a high intensity workout for even just one minute spread out over 3 times per day resulted in a 43% increase in metabolism. And a significant improvement in a person’s cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). Improving your CRF “can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” says Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario who was one of the authors of the study. Improved CRF increases insulin sensitivity and lowers triglycerides.
In the study, a group of inactive people did 20 second bike “sprint snacks” where they pedaled as hard as they could on a stationary bike for 20 seconds, three (3) times a day. Each sprint snack was separated by 4-5 hours of inactivity. After six weeks, the groups CRF improved by 9%–similar to the 13% improvement by the other group in the study that did 10 minutes of high intensity stationary biking per day.
“We have this notion that it takes at least an hour to get in a good workout—more if you factor in the time required to get to and from the gym,” Gibala writes in his book “The One-Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That’s Smarter, Faster, Shorter.” “My studies show that idea is nonsense.” Indeed.
So how can we do this?
Get a stationary bike. Put it by your desk. Take a break and pedal as fast as you can for 20 seconds, just 3 times a day. Don’t have a bike? No problem. Do some jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, lunges or squats for 20 seconds. If you are older or overweight, do an exercise that is manageable (don’t get injured) and remember that the key is to get your heart rate going. Whatever the exercise, go hard for 20 seconds where you get your heart beating fast and then go back to work or study. The harder the intensity, the better. And if you can do more than 20 seconds per session, go for it.
“The exact reason why exercise snacks work has yet to be determined, but they may improve the pumping capacity of the heart and its ability to transport oxygen throughout the body,” Gibala says. He goes on to say that “these snacks can help break up sedentary periods. The message is that little is better than nothing, and every little thing counts.”
So, the next time you’re hard at work and you feel like getting a snack, get a “sprint snack” instead. Remember, even a little is better than nothing.