Just last night, while watching an incredible NBA game, a friend and I were discussing dieting and fitness in the most basic terms. He had no aspirations of being the next Men’s Health cover model, he just simply wanted to shed a few pounds and tone up a couple of problem areas. But he was adamant about the fact that he didn’t want to spend two hours in the gym everyday or never eat a carb again.
I then attempted to impress on him how easy reaching his goal would be, and just how little effort he’d have to put into it. With that stated, in my mind “minimal effort” was a few simple but significant dietary changes (cutting out soda, for example) and at least an hour’s worth of exercise each week. That seemed to me like perfectly reasonable advice for someone who isn’t looking to go from zero to sixty, rather to just get the car into drive. It appears, however, that my estimate may actually have been a bit high. Why spend an hour a week working out when 12 minutes will suffice?
That is, according to a study done by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology where 26 participants where split into two groups to perform high intensity interval cardiovascular training. The study was performed over a 10-week period with each group working out 3 times a week. In one group, participants were put through four rounds of 4-minute high intensity cardio work, followed by 3 minutes of slow walking, before cooling down. The second eschewed the slow walking and instead of four rounds of interval training, simply completed one. That’s it – just four minutes of high intensity (90% of their maximum heart rate) running, three times a week… 12 total minutes.
Both groups showed improved cardiovascular health, increased their maximum oxygen uptakes and improved blood sugar and blood pressure levels without any significant difference in either group. You can read all the details of the study in this New York Times article, but the only question that remains is: do you think you can spare 12 minute a week to improve your health?