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What two minutes a week of high-intensity exercise can do
esearchers from Abertay University
report that high-intensity training (HIT)
of short duration not only reduces the risk
of disease, but is also just as effective
at doing so as the exercise guidelines
currently recommended, according to a
study by Simon Adamson and colleagues
Current guidelines state that five
30-minute sessions of exercise should be
carried out each week, something that
very few people manage to achieve. The
most common reason cited for this is lack
of time, and the researchers believe that
HIT is the perfect way for people who are
time-poor to improve their health.
In the study, overweight adults took
part in a HIT programme for a period of
eight weeks. This involved completing
twice-weekly sprint series on an exercise
bike, with each sprint lasting just six
seconds. Ten sprints were completed in
total during each session, amounting to
just two minutes of exercise per week.
This short HIT programme was enough
to significantly improve cardiovascular
health and insulin sensitivity in the
participants, and is the first time that so
little exercise has been shown to have
such significant health benefits. Previous
research by the same team had shown that
three HIT sessions a week were required,
but this study has eclipsed these results
by showing that the same results can be
achieved with just two.
Dr John Babraj, head of the HIT research
team at Abertay University, explains: ‘With
this study, we investigated the benefits of
HIT in a population group known to be at
risk of developing diabetes: overweight,
‘We found that not only does HIT
reduce the risk of their developing the
disease, but also that the regimen needs
to be performed only twice a week in
order for them to reap the benefits. And
you don’t have to be able to go at the
speed of Usain Bolt when you’re sprinting.
As long as you are putting your maximal
effort into the sprints, it will improve your
‘And this is the beauty of HIT: it is quick
to do and it is effective. Although it is
well-established that exercise is a powerful
therapy for the treatment and prevention
of type 2 diabetes, only 40% of men and
28%of women achieve the recommended
30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise
on five days of the week.
‘Lack of time to exercise, due to work
or family commitments, is cited as the
most common barrier to participation,
so HIT offers a really effective solution to
this problem and has the added benefit of
reducing disease risk which activities such
as walking, even if done five days a week
for 30 minutes, don’t offer.
‘There is a clear relationship between
the intensity of exercise and the magnitude
of health improvement, so it is only
through these short, high-intensity sprints
that health improvements can be seen.’