Work out less, get fit faster

We’ve all heard the prom­ises. But with the mi­crowork­out, it might just be true, says Brigid Moss

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How the mi­crowork­out could rev­o­lu­tionise your fit­ness regime

Who wants to get sweaty, out of breath, and red in the face? Ac­tu­ally, you do. That’s be­cause in­ter­val train­ing – al­ter­nat­ing high ef­fort and rest – is proven to fast-track your fit­ness, boost your me­tab­o­lism and calo­rie burn all day and, be­cause you get re­sults in a frac­tion of the time a nor­mal work­out takes, it’s a god­send for the time-poor. The prin­ci­ple isn’t new: it’s stan­dard for elite ath­letes, and you may al­ready be do­ing it at classes such as Psy­cle (Spin­ning), or with train­ers such as The Body Coach, Joe Wicks. But Pro­fes­sor Martin Gibala, the phys­i­ol­o­gist whose work be­gan this decade’s big­gest fit­ness trend, writes in his new book The One-minute Work­out, that his mis­sion is to make it an ex­er­cise stan­dard. “Ul­tra-low-dose ex­er­cise… may be the most ef­fi­cient work­out ever pro­duced,” he says.

On the phone from his of­fice at Mc­mas­ter Univer­sity, Canada, Gibala de­scribes the re­sults of his first, sem­i­nal ex­per­i­ment on HIIT (High In­ten­sity In­ter­val Train­ing): “Our find­ings were com­pelling, how quickly you could elicit changes in per­for­mance and hu­man phys­i­ol­ogy, just how lit­tle ex­er­cise it seem­ingly re­quired.” Just one 16-minute ses­sion a week for six weeks dou­bled the ex­er­cis­ers’ en­durance ca­pac­ity. Each of the six ses­sions al­ter­nated 30 sec­onds of all-out sta­tion­ary cy­cling with four min­utes of rest, four times. “These short, in­tense in­ter­vals ap­peared to have some near-magic abil­ity to im­prove aer­o­bic en­ergy me­tab­o­lism,” says Gibala. In the 12 years since, he’s led re­search into the ben­e­fits of fast and slow work­outs.

So why are some of us still plod­ding around the park? “Be­cause it’s dif­fer­ent to the stan­dard health guide­lines,” says Gibala. “And, this can be an un­com­fort­able form of ex­er­cise.” But the pay­off is huge: the harder you work, the less time you need to. Right down to Gibala’s per­sonal go-to ‘mi­crowork­out’ – three sets of 100%-ef­fort 20-sec­ond sprints al­ter­nated with one to two min­utes of rest.

If face-red­den­ing ef­fort isn’t your thing, you can still get the ben­e­fits, says Gibala. Even walk­ing fast and slow is bet­ter than steady walk­ing. “Just get out of your com­fort zone.” The two work­outs, left, are proven to get re­sults, or you can go freestyle, aka fartlek (speed play in Swedish), ba­si­cally go hard un­til you can’t, then back off. In just a few weeks, you’ll be loads fit­ter with way more en­ergy. Quite a re­sult, for mere min­utes of feel­ing red-faced.

The One-minute Work­out: Sci­ence Shows A Way To Get Fit That’s Smarter, Faster, Shorter by Pro­fes­sor

Martin Gibala




Do less and see more re­sults with short bursts of ex­er­cise

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