The 10-minute workout for any time crunch

You may not need as much time to work out as you think

A new book says you may not need as much time as you think to realize the benefits of exercise. The One-Minute Workout makes the case for interval training as the most effective fitness option for the time-crunched. Since intensity is more important than duration when it comes to high intensity interval training (HIIT), adherents can see increased calorie burn and fat reduction, in less time than traditional endurance workouts.

Even a 10-minute workout three times a week can promote heart health and reduce your risk of diabetes, says Martin Gibala, the author and chair of the kinesiology department at McMaster University. Medcan spoke with Gibala about his findings.

“Interval training occupies a sort of middle ground between classic endurance exercise and resistance exercise. And depending on the specific protocol, it can elicit changes that resemble traditional style cardio or classic strength training,” says Gibala.

One of Gibala’s latest studies found that three, 10-minute interval sessions per week, involving a total of only three minutes of hard exercise, boosted fitness to the same extent as two and a half hours per week of traditional endurance training.

“A lot of people have this notion that interval training refers only to all out extreme exercise, which makes people think it’s not for them. But interval training can be customized to meet individual people’s needs,” says Gibala. “Intervals are an excellent way to fit exercise within your life. Rather than having to structure your life around exercise.”

But does interval training gel with the Medcan perspective?

“I’m all for this approach to diversify your workout,” says Tim Evangelista, assistant head fitness trainer at Medcan, who encourages his clients to consider Gibala’s findings. “But it’s important to incorporate longer or lower intensity exercises for the physiological and psychological benefits of recovery sessions. Low to moderate activity has other benefits that high intensity doesn’t offer. And it’s important to watch out for the risks of high intensity exercises like excessive stress on the soft tissue and the joint.”

“It’s really about modifying how intense you are going and progressing the interval length at that intensity. I’d recommend combining high intensity and low intensity workouts and varying the difficulty over weeks (i.e. one having two high intensity day, and the following week having a high and a low intensity day).

“If you’ve been doing the traditional steady state aerobic training, give HIIT a try – but set yourself up for success to avoid injury.”

If you are considering a HIIT approach to your workouts, here are three take-aways from Gibala’s book:

1)   Find the right interval training program for you

Gibala offers 12 options in his book – eight workouts and 4 micro workouts.  The One-Minute Workout – bearing the book’s teaser headline – involves 20 seconds of very vigorous exercise, repeated three times. If you add a warm up, cool down and recovery, the entire session takes 10 minutes.

Another of Gibala’s favorite protocols that almost anyone can adopt is the “Ten by One”: one minute of hard exercise – pushing yourself to about a 7 or 8 on a 10-point scale – and then one minute of recovery, repeated 10 times.

“This workout has been extensively studied in the laboratory,” says Gibala. “It has been applied to de-conditioned individuals – people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease – and also highly fit men. It’s a workout that can be scaled to many individuals.”

2)   Ease into it gently and plan for progressive improvement

Evangelista encourages beginners to plan for progression when starting out because of the physical and psychological demands required for pushing yourself.

“For beginners, a high but not maximal effort for less time and building up each week is an appropriate plan,” adds Evangelista. “This progression allows for the other systems to adapt to the high demand, like the joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments.”

Anyone who is thinking of changing or trying a new exercise routine is advised to check in with their doctor. If you are cleared to go vigorous, incorporate it in progressions into your interval training.

3)    Ensure you stay motivated and committed

In order to stick to your routine for the long term, Gibala recommends your workout has these characteristics:

  • Start early in the day, like before breakfast
  • Avoid comparisons with other people in your class or the way you used to be
  • Reward yourself with the occasional treat
  • Create a supportive ambience: music helps you reach your peak performance and encouragement from peers will help you reach your goals

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