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Medicine Science

Scientists Study How Little Exercise You Need 437

Hugh Pickens writes "Millions of Americans don't engage in much exercise, if they complete any at all and asked why, a majority of respondents, in survey after survey, say, 'I don't have time.' Now Gretchen Reynolds reports that instead of wondering just how much exercise people really need in order to gain health and fitness, a group of scientists in Canada are turning that issue on its head and asking, how little exercise do we need to maintain fitness and the answer appears to be, a lot less than most of us think — provided we're willing to work a bit. Most people have heard of intervals, or repeated, short, sharp bursts of strenuous activity, interspersed with rest periods. Almost all competitive athletes strategically employ a session or two of interval training every week to improve their speed and endurance. Researchers have developed a version of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that involves one minute of strenuous effort, at about 90 percent of a person's maximum heart rate (which most of us can estimate, very roughly, by subtracting our age from 220), followed by one minute of easy recovery. The effort and recovery are repeated 10 times, for a total of 20 minutes and the interval training is performed twice a week. Despite the small time commitment of this modified HIIT program, after several weeks of practicing it, both the unfit volunteers and the cardiac patients showed significant improvements in their health and fitness. '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.'"
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Scientists Study How Little Exercise You Need

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  • er what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AdamWill ( 604569 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @09:12PM (#39054223) Homepage

    "Now Gretchen Reynolds reports that instead of wondering just how much exercise people really need in order to gain health and fitness, a group of scientists in Canada are turning that issue on its head and asking, how little exercise do we need to maintain fitness"

    How is that 'turning the issue on its head'? It seems to me more like a very minor rephrasing of the question which ultimately makes no difference at all.

  • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @09:25PM (#39054363)

    That's not really the way interval training works, though the fact that you exercise at all puts you head and shoulders above most people in this country. Real interval training requires you to do a bunch of short intervals of exercise with only slightly longer periods of rest in between. For example, sprint for one minute, slow jog for two, repeat that cycle six times. Most exercise machines (treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, etc.) have such an option as one of the built-in programs.

    But regardless of whether or not what you're suggesting is "real" interval training, the fact remains that it is exercise, and for most people, even modest exercise is enough to keep them from getting fat and weak. Just remember to wear deodorant, because under the proposed regimen, you're not going to be showering after each interval.

  • .... I highly doubt it would do anything to resolve any actual obesity.

    I've made a point of exercising a lot lately... and I've found that my endurance has gone up considerably since I started, but I'm just as fat as I ever was. At least I'm not gaining any more weight... still undesirably obese though.

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @10:06PM (#39054781) Homepage Journal

    Getting your heartrate up is the important bit - use those lungs and get your liver in fighting trim. The more vital you are the better off you are, short and long term.

    I'd hate to see research coming out recommending people do as little as possible. It would only confirm to the at-risk group they don't need to work on it. Meanwhile, people I went to high school with are popping their clogs. Geez.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @10:53PM (#39055195) Homepage Journal

    <nelson>HA HA!</nelson>

    I eat what I want and don't get much exercise at all. I'm thin, sit all day, drink too much, and you know what? You have to die from something. Live while you're alive. Take it from an old man who'll be sixty in a couple of months.

    (now watch me die tomorrow, that would show me, wouldn't it?)

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @11:06PM (#39055285)

    Hard interval training is going to do a hell of a lot more for your heart rate than walking, unless, perhaps, you're talking about Olympic class speed walking.

    Walking is better than nothing, but it doesn't raise your heart rate nearly as much as running or intensive intervals.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @11:12PM (#39055329)

    I agree with 'Live while you are alive' but sitting on the couch, drinking and eating crap I find less of the living then spending couple of hours in the gym, relaxing brain while walking or camping and eating stuff that makes me feel good AFTERWARDS (like fruits and oatmeal).

  • by Thing 1 ( 178996 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:47AM (#39056087) Journal

    I'd hate to see research coming out recommending people do as little as possible.

    Agree with other sibling. Personally, I'd hate to see research that says you should do more than is absolutely necessary; such research would be promoting inefficiency.

  • by pepty ( 1976012 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:50AM (#39056115)
    F!@K YOU!

    I'm having the flu right now, and yet, my buddies and I just had an intense workout out for over an hour at the gym, and I didn't even feel tired.

    I'm glad you feel so healthy, but please stay away from the gym while you're coughing, sneezing, or barfing.

  • Re:oh vey (Score:4, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:52AM (#39056129)
    90% heart rate pretty much just means "go flat out." So, one minute flat out, one minute rest. Repeat 10 times. I can tell you right now that this will make those 20 minutes of exercise about as unpleasant as they could be. Concentrating your exercise like this maximizes the gap between your normal level of activity (none) and your exercise. I'm surprised it doesn't cause heart attacks, but far be it from me to offer up intuition against data.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:57AM (#39056161) Journal

    If you consume fewer calories than you burn you will lose weight. No amount of adapting can get around that.

    If only it were that easy. Metabolism varies depending on what you do, and what you eat. It can vary as much as 700 calories for people with similar body composition. That is, I may look exactly the same as you, and exercise the same amount, but I can eat 700 calories more than you each day without gaining weight. Furthermore it varies within the same person.

    And that is ignoring body composition and nutrition. If you have a high sugar diet, you can still lose weight if you eat few calories, but you will not be very health. You want to lose weight in a way that makes you more healthy, not less healthy.

    These are problems that can be overcome, of course, but claiming it is a simple inequality is ignoring a number of complications, tautological, and not particularly helpful.

  • by geedubyoo ( 1980822 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:35AM (#39057197)
    You did not have the flu and I suspect that you have never had flu. No matter how healthy you are, the influenza virus will completely wipe you out and you will be barely able to stand, never mind go to the gym. You had a bout of the common cold.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:54AM (#39057279)

    You wanna look like a douche, play around with some machines or dumbells (guess why they call them that). You wanna be healthy, feel great and get all the poon you can handle? Tai Chi.

    I guess I rather look like a douche than act and sound like one.

  • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @07:24AM (#39057881) Homepage

    The stretching FAQ is a very good resource: []

    Stretching while your muscles are cold is a very bad idea. One of the things that confuses people is how crazily flexible your body is when you are young. You can usually do just about any stupid ass thing and you will not get seriously injured. But as you get older, you lose it. Warm up is essential. Stretching before exercise (before you are warm) is an invitation to injury.

    But extrapolating from that to assume that stretching is a bad idea is wrong. Flexibility is extremely useful. If you don't move your body through it's full range of motion, you will gradually lose the ability to do so. Then you are not only at risk of injury during exercise, but also in every day life. Because the loss of flexibility is so gradual, many people don't realize it. But before you know it, it's gone and then you lose your ability to move.

    Stretching isn't something you chuck in at the beginning of a workout. It is part of a workout (or even the workout itself). You have to treat it seriously and understand how to do it properly. Just like anything else.

  • by jimbolauski ( 882977 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @09:53AM (#39058805) Journal
    How is sitting around all day living, most of the people that follow your lifestyle are overweight and the only pleasure they get from life is what's on TV. I'll admit I only have 1/2 the life experience and maybe when I've doubled it I will be content to sit around all day. Most people that work out enjoy it, the endorphins and the satisfaction of improving yourself are what motivates them, I know I feel good about myself after a hard workout, long bike rides let me clear my mind of the days troubles, yet some would find it incredibly boring. The increased level of fitness lets me run around with my kids all day and not get tired, go hiking and see beautiful things that people miss because they can't get there, the last time I went to Smokey Mountain National Park I was glad I was in shape many people that were not overweight could not make it up to chimney top and I was treated to a wonderful view.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong