clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Three minutes of intense exercise a week can improve heart health

Interval training is the savior of the time-crunched exerciser.

We’ve already written about the increased cardiovascular benefits associated with intervals, but a new study is suggesting that you can still reap these benefits with intervals as short as 3 minutes a week.

Still don’t have time to work out?

Canadian researchers found that one minute of intense sprinting in a ten minute bike ride improved cardiovascular fitness in a group of overweight and obese adults who didn’t exercise much previously. The adults repeated the workout three times per week, for six weeks. The sprinting was “all-out,” according to the study — meaning the bikers were going as fast as they possibly could.

Multiple different markers of cardiovascular fitness, like oxygen consumption, were measured before and after each workout, and compared to the individual’s baseline. The researchers did the same thing to determine changes in the biker’s muscles.

Overall, the participants got stronger and saw improvements in their blood pressure and oxygen consumption: On average, the group improved their endurance by 12 percent.

You know already that something is better than nothing when it comes to exercise, but it’s good to know that how you exercise matters, too. If finding the time to work out is difficult, this study shows you can cram exercise into your day with a really short, really intense workout. The harder you go, the shorter you have to work.

That policy can be applied to people of all fitness levels– but it is important to note that the people who saw these results were living a pretty sedentary life before they got involved with the study. If you’re working out very regularly at a challenging level, what kind of results can you expect?

“Initial fitness plays a role in the adaptive responses to training and generally speaking, the gains are less pronounced [in] people who are more fit to start,” said Martin Gibala, who authored the study.

“That being said, there is evidence that brief, very intense intervals like that performed in our study can also elicit physiological or performance changes more in highly-trained individuals.”

Heart disease is a serious problem in the U.S. — it causes 1 in 4 deaths every year, according to the CDC. Exercise is key to protecting your heart– and now that you know you have time for it, what do you have to lose?