Work out less, get fit faster
We’ve all heard the promises. But with the microworkout, it might just be true, says Brigid Moss
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
Do less and see more results with short bursts of exercise