There’s been some interesting “talk” in the news recently about The One-Minute Workout. That’s right! One minute a day => seven minutes a week, and that’s supposed to make you healthier and give you the energy of a kid again.
To say the least, I was highly skeptical of any such shortcut to fitness, but I became extremely curious and had to check this out. I’m a long-distance runner, I lift weights and pepper in ballroom dancing to keep my waistline under control as the years mount.
I feel pretty good about my health status, but all that exercise takes time—time I could be writing and killing off a few more characters in my murder mystery novels or creating more international intrigue in my thriller novels. So I researched this “drop in the bucket” workout plan and found a few interesting facts as well as a few “deviations” from those facts.
It turns out that researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada conducted a study that involved directing fourteen sedentary men and women to do one minute of intense, all-out exercise several times a week for six weeks. The goal was to improve their endurance and lower their blood pressure. That’s a reasonable focus since we all know that a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to poor physical endurance, increased weight and chronic diseases such as high blood pressure.
The exercise consisted of a short warm-up for two minutes on a stationary bike (already I’m seeing the misnomer in the name), then the participants pedaled as hard as they possibly could for three 20-second intervals followed by a cool-down of two minutes of slower pedaling (so far I’m seeing at least a five-minute workout). They did this intense exercise regimen three times a week, all adding up to 30 minutes of exercise a week (so each session ACTUALLY took TEN minutes to accomplish).
After six weeks of this periodic but regular intense bursts of activity, the participants were measured again for their endurance to some unnamed activity (presumably the same physical activity as measured at the beginning of the study). The results indicated a 12% gain in physical endurance, lowered blood pressure levels, and a general improvement in muscle activity.
By any standard, this is impressive and this carve-out research was part of a larger study conducted by the kinesiology department at McMaster University, which has spent years studying the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as compared to the benefits of moderate exercise over longer periods of time.
The One-Minute Workout is based on performing one of a group of exercises (like push-ups, running up a set of stairs, squat jumps or jumping rope) and focuses on only ONE of those exercises at a time for a total of one minute of exercise several times a week—and eventually one or more times a day. The concept is that anyone can carve out one minute here and there in their busy lives to focus on becoming and staying fit.
I certainly believe in HIIT-type exercise activity and know that the science behind it is solid. Short but intense workouts are effective at increasing strength and endurance. I coach long-distance runners in my spare time and one of the best ways to improve running pace (helping runners to run faster) is HIIT training via short but repeated bursts of sprinting on a running track and/or running up a short hill several times in a row. Doing these types of activities at least once a week, along with regular runs, certainly contributes to improving a runner’s overall speed.
As effective as short but intense exercise regimens can be, the problem is that any type of HIIT exercise routine is very uncomfortable—it HURTS to push your body to the limit, let it rest for a short period and then push it again to the limit. The positive results are definitely worth it and the gains in muscle endurance, cardio fitness and strength will certainly be there, but one must push through the pain to make that happen.
The negative aspects of HITT exercises (as an exclusive physical training focus) are that you’ll learn to dread those workouts because of the extreme physical stress they put on the body. You might possibly (and probably) find excuses to put them off (or to not do them at all). For sedentary, overweight individuals, this type of sudden bursts of exercise may be too difficult to accomplish and may even be dangerous until a certain level of fitness is achieved with a more moderate exercise program.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!
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