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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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  • Interval Training (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @09:08PM (#39054171) Homepage Journal
    Works wonders if your employer has an onsite gym. Duck in at random intervals throughout the day, bang out 100 leg presses, 15 heavyweight curls each arm, 30 heavyweight dumbell presses, 40 reps of wrist curls with 40-pound dumbbells each arm. Feels good, man, even on a diet of beer and Mexican food.

    The intervals meaning that interruption to your routine is minimal since you're not doing it all at once when everybody else is using the gym, like at lunchtimes or after work.
  • by GamemakerSupreme ( 2575291 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @09:20PM (#39054313)

    Because I think it's boring. It's not that I don't have the time, but I would just rather be doing other things. I think a lot of people who say, "I don't have the time" are like that, too.

    Other things like commenting on Slashdot, yes.

  • Slow burn fitness... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hsthompson69 ( 1674722 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @09:24PM (#39054361)

    ...30 minutes a week, every week for the past 3 years, and still getting stronger every week. Slow strength training is by far the most effective exercise I've encountered so far, and the benefits for just 30 minutes a week are *crazy*.

    http://slowburnfitness.com/ [slowburnfitness.com]

    No, I don't get kickbacks, but I'm forever grateful to Fred Hahn for figuring this crap out.

  • Yes but (Score:4, Interesting)

    by f97tosc ( 578893 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @10:21PM (#39054917)
    Maybe it is true that 10x1 min high-intensity training is just as good as 20, 30 or even 40 minutes of easier training.

    But for most people I am not sure if it is any more fun or easier to commit to.

    As a pretty serious long distance runner (running Boston Marathon this spring), I don't doubt that intervals can make me faster and I will do some before the race, but that is easily the worst part of my training. It is just very unpleasant to run at >90% of max capacity. I even prefer 15 mile long runs over intervals.
  • by ignavus ( 213578 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @11:44PM (#39055589)

    Dr Ken Cooper - the guy who invented aerobics and published back in the 1970s - was answering this question more or less. He was a US Air Force doctor and had access to thousands of subjects for testing. He wanted to answer the question: "How much exercise do I *need* to do, when a doctor tells me to get `more' exercise?"

    Basically, after a 13 week conditioning program of gradually increasing exersion, his program settles down into walking 4 miles in 55 minutes, three times a week. This is not that burdensome. And there are many alternatives to walking: swimming, running/jogging, cycling, playing various vigorous sports like squash, etc. He worked out age and activity based tables for mixing and matching various activities to achieve the weekly exercise goal - all based on research into basic aerobic fitness.

  • by Doofus ( 43075 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:57AM (#39056159)
    and therein lies the problem.

    HIIT has actually been around and been discussed in running groups for a number of years. Lest you think I am pulling this from where the sun doesn't shine, I write this from some personal experience; I am an experienced ultramarathoner (six 50 milers). HIIT is extremely difficult for "normal" people to do as an ongoing exercise program.

    The great majority of Americans are simply not capable of pushing themselves as hard as is required for a successful HIIT regimen. If you're not capable of pushing yourself to do this type of strenuous exercise, you're not going to do it. It's as simple as that.

    HIIT will work extraordinarily well for people that are already moderately fit or even overweight if they are capable of pushing through their pain (not the physical pain, the mental pain). Again, and again, and again; and each iteration is harder than the last.

    Most people - especially the great unwashed overweight masses (pun intended) - aren't willing or capable of doing this, and simply aren't going to do it. They would be better served starting out just walking briskly for 30 minutes four or five times a week.
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @02:21AM (#39056591)

    Because I think it's boring. It's not that I don't have the time, but I would just rather be doing other things.

    Something that really helps me do treadmill is watching a movie. I once had a shelf for a laptop above the treadmill, but these days most treadmills have screens and iPod connections. I've found the best movies for exercising aren't great movies, they're 2 1/2 star action flicks. My wife has found the same thing, but for her it's trashy TV, mainly reality shows.

    Even then, would I rather be doing other things? Probably. But it's just a cost of having a sedentary job. We weren't meant to live like this.

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