With work, school runs, housework and family demands all pressing on our time, it's often hard to find time for exercise, even though we all know the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
However, new research has shown that just 60 seconds of strenuous exertion is as successful at improving health and fitness as 45 minutes of gentler sweating – a finding that could help us shape our workouts to be much more efficient.
The trend for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been growing for some time, but this new research really hammers home just how much time we could be saving by focusing on brief bursts of hardcore exercise.
Twenty-five out-of-shape young men were recruited for the study by the McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. They were divided into three groups: one group was told not to exercise at all, another exercised at a moderate pace on stationary bikes for 45 minutes a day, and the third group undertook 10 minutes of daily interval training. This involved three 20-second sprints on the stationary bike, with a few minutes recovery in between each burst of exercise.
Amazingly, both the latter groups showed virtually identical gains in fitness, despite the fact that the moderate exercisers spent more than four times as long working out per day.
The results suggest that, if you're the type of person who spends half an hour plodding along on the treadmill or stationary bike, you would be much better off by varying sprint sessions – where you're pushing yourself to your limit – with gentler recovery exercise.
There are also plenty of classes that use the HIIT ethos to guide workouts, such as circuit training, Insanity and CrossFit. Even if you just have 10 minutes at home to workout, the evidence from this study clearly indicates that a short burst of exercise could do you good. So what are you waiting for? Time to grab that skipping rope!