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Can you spare 3 minutes a week to become fit?
February 28, 2012 12:24 PM   Subscribe

Just three minutes a week of exercise can help make you fit. That's 180 seconds out of 604,800. 'This apparently outrageous claim is supported by many years of research'. 'A few relatively short bursts of intense exercise, amounting to only a few minutes a week, can deliver many of the health and fitness benefits of hours of conventional exercise, according to new research.''But how much benefit you get from either may well depend on your genes.'

This involves just three minutes of High Intensity Training a week for four weeks and results can already be seen in dramatic improvement in insulin sensitivity (on the order of 24%), and aerobic fitness. Aerobic fitness has consistently been shown to be an extremely reliable predictor of future health.

Moreover, the 3 minutes of High Intensity Training can be broken up for further ease and convenience. Just do one minute every couple of days or so. And go ahead and break up that minute into three 20 second sessions like this:

'You get on an exercise bike, warm up by doing gentle cycling for a couple of minutes, then go flat out for 20 seconds.

A couple of minutes to catch your breath, then another 20 seconds at full throttle. Another couple of minutes gentle cycling, then a final 20 seconds going hell for leather. And that's it.'

Does it get easier than that? No, it does not.

However, as with all things, there is a catch. Not everyone can benefit from this HIT to the same degree. How much you benefit depends on your genes.

As has been known for years, a good portion of the population simply does not respond to exercise. They are called non-responders. Some 10% don't seem to achieve any conventionally expected benefits from exercise, while others only receive some of the benefits, while missing others - for example, up to 20% don't get benefits in insulin sensitivity. The same applies for the one in six non-responders to exercise who don't lose weight and don't improve their muscle tone as a result of their workouts.

However, genes aren't everything, and medical science keeps evolving: even if you're a non-responder to exercise, most physicians would advise you to keep exercising, as there may be hidden benefits that science will uncover in the future, even for non-responders.

Meanwhile, we've all seen the youtube animation video narrated by the doctor who eloquently asked if you can confine your sleeping and sitting to 23 and a half hours a day (Previously), so you can spare the 30 minutes a day of upright activity. Now the question is, can you spare 3 minutes a week for some intense exercise for very dramatic benefits?
posted by VikingSword (53 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite

 
Coincidentally acronymed HIT because you can alternatively just have someone beat the crap out of you once a week.
posted by goethean at 12:30 PM on February 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


How about 6 seconds of exercise once a day? I think I can do that!!!
posted by Huck500 at 12:34 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


@Huck500: Don't overdo it!
posted by slater at 12:35 PM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have been reading an advertisement making this claim in Scientific American for what seems like decades. I can't remember what their stupid machine is called but it costs on the order of tens of thousands of dollars.

If it's true, it's great, but I enjoy being on my bike, out on the road, for hours.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:36 PM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also known as Tabata Sprints.
posted by starvingartist at 12:38 PM on February 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


If it's true, it's great, but I enjoy being on my bike, out on the road, for hours.

Me too, but since January I've added in some intense, regular intervals and it's really made a difference. I don't get beaten up teh big hills nearly as badly, which rocks my world.
posted by cccorlew at 12:42 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about 6 seconds of exercise once a day? I think I can do that!!!

No! No, no, not 6! I said 7. Nobody's comin' up with 6. Who works out in 6 seconds? You won't even get your heart goin, not even a mouse on a wheel.

That - good point.

7's the key number here. Think about it. 7-Elevens. 7 dwarves. 7, man, that's the number. 7 chipmunks twirlin' on a branch, eatin' lots of sunflowers on my uncle's ranch. You know that old children's tale from the sea. It's like you're dreamin' about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby. Step into my office.

Why?

'Cause you're fuckin' fired!

posted by BrotherCaine at 12:43 PM on February 28, 2012 [21 favorites]


This thingy is what I was thinking of.

And yeah. When I want to be fast, I have to do intense intervals. And rest lots between. But more and more I care less and less about how fast I go, and get more all-around benefit from just cruising and enjoying.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:44 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Always sprint up the last hill, no matter what.
posted by helicomatic at 12:45 PM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


So three minutes a day of intense jump rope after a core workout would be overkill.

Huh, well, I guess my beer belly needs to get on board with this.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:47 PM on February 28, 2012


Crossfit clued me into this phenomenon. I get in better shape from two 20-30 minute high-intensity sessions per week than from 2-3 hours every day of conventional gym-ratting (weights, cardio machines).
posted by LordSludge at 12:49 PM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


True facts. I call this the "TIGER! RUN!" workout. You pretend that you just saw a fucking huge tiger behind you and you have twenty seconds to get as far away as possible from it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:50 PM on February 28, 2012 [32 favorites]


This is worth it even if all it does is improve insulin sensitivity.
posted by Dragonness at 12:57 PM on February 28, 2012


Moreover, the 3 minutes of High Intensity Training can be broken up for further ease and convenience. Just do one minute every couple of days or so.

Buy Missy says:

"Ooooooh, I don't want I don't need I can't stand no minute man
I don't want no minute man."
posted by karathrace at 12:57 PM on February 28, 2012


Someone on my MeFi try this and let me know. k thx? I could easily tack this on to the end of my normal recumbant cycle routine.
posted by Theta States at 12:59 PM on February 28, 2012


Highly recommend the GymBoss interval timer if you want to do Tabata training.
posted by wuwei at 12:59 PM on February 28, 2012


The abstract in the "claim" link does not seem to claim what the article or the FPP claims. They did 10-minute workouts 3 times a week, doing one or two rounds of HIIT each session. They also don't conclude that this is as effective as, you know, more exercise, just that it is effective. Haven't we known about HIIT for a long time?

Also: (men, n = 7; women, n = 8) or a control group (men, n = 6; women, n = 8)

Isn't that a really small group?
posted by cmoj at 1:00 PM on February 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


I would rather deadlift my 1RM with my cat on my head with cat kibble glued to my face than do flat-out Tabata anything.

Which is more reason to do them and I am, but just ugh. When you do them right (going until you want to die), you look like a panting, heaving idiot and everyone around you just edges away because it's not like you actually run very far, and if you do them on a stationary bike you look even more like an idiot because you aren't going anywhere at all.

Also it annoys me when people get all smirky and say stuff like, 'wow, you're out of shape if you get tired after four minutes!' The urge to chew on someone's face becomes near overwhelming.

Also relevant: Zombies, Run!
posted by zennish at 1:00 PM on February 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


If this were true, my masturbation habits would overcome my alcohol habits.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:02 PM on February 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


Huh, well, I guess my beer belly needs to get on board with this.

So the article mentions two benefits - insulin sensitivity, and aerobic fitness ("Aerobic fitness is a measure of how good your heart and lungs are at getting oxygen into your body and is an excellent predictor of future health") - both of which seem orthogonal to weight / burning fat. Can anyone clarify whether this would help you lose a beer belly? (The benefits are unquestionably awesome and worthwhile, I just think it's an important distinction.)
posted by naju at 1:02 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I do 2.6 hours of exercise can I take the rest of the year off?
posted by rocket88 at 1:05 PM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can anyone clarify whether this would help you lose a beer belly?

Yeah, improving your insulin sensitivity would probably make a difference in your beer belly, from everything I've read recently.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:07 PM on February 28, 2012


No, it wouldn't help you lose a beer belly. You would burn very few calories. Maybe enough to counter a breath mint.
posted by Justinian at 1:08 PM on February 28, 2012


If this were true, my masturbation habits would overcome my alcohol habits.

80% of your body's muscle cells are activated during masturbation? I'm clearly doing it wrong.
posted by naju at 1:08 PM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


How so, restless_nomad?
posted by Justinian at 1:08 PM on February 28, 2012


My very much layman's understanding is that insulin resistance leads to increased insulin levels, which leads to lowered blood sugar, which makes people hungrier so they eat more. (Plus a whole bunch of only-barely-understood additional hormonal complications involving... leptin and ghrelin? Again, total layman.) There's also a bunch of stuff about where fat is stored being affected by insulin resistance (specifically belly fat.)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:17 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to figure out if the RNA sequence in question (referred to constantly but not given) is one of the SNPs that 23andme analyze.
posted by rr at 1:19 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]



My dad always says, science is right...today. You could find a scientific paper that supports pretty much anything at this point.

I'm also guessing that you can spot the folks who are genetically disposed to benefit from HIT. They're the ones hauling ass up a flight of stairs without getting winded.

So I guess I'm out.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:31 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually, this is sort of what I do for my commute. I don't have much time for longer bike rides during the week, so I do a higher intensity ride to and from work (15-20 mins. each way). I take a hillier route than I could, and sprint between lights and stop signs.

I also get hit by cars on occasion. Toughens you up.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:37 PM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


The concept is given here regarding Metabolic Syndrome -- it's not just about "burning calories"... Increasing your overall metabolism + getting your body less resistant to insulin helps your body burn more.
posted by symbioid at 1:39 PM on February 28, 2012


I'm very very out of shape - deconditioned. Would HIT for me be something that most people would have no problem with but would be "stressful" to my system (i.e. intense)? Wouldn't it be more based on like heartrate/THZ and such?

I wouldn't push this until I got a bit further along in my conditioning (which is a long road I'm just starting)...

*sigh*
posted by symbioid at 1:41 PM on February 28, 2012


Coincidently, the BBC's Panorama special on exercise which is on right now tells us that you should be moving moderately every hour of the day that you're awake: standing up, walking, taking the stairs undsoweiter, rather than having any formal sort of exercise at the end of the day. Keep moving each hour and it keeps your body's system fueled and burning calories on a regular level.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:48 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Though it does indeed also mention this socalled HIT protocol.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:54 PM on February 28, 2012


Honestly weight loss and tone and all that fitness stuff is just a side benefit. I mainly work out to burn away the anxiety. Three minutes won't do that.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:01 PM on February 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


I mainly work out to burn away the anxiety. Three minutes won't do that.

Won't know unless you try it ... ;)

Of course, if you like your exercise, that's something totally different. This sort of approach is for people who can't or don't want to spend a lot of time exercising.

I'll chime in as one of those supporting this research via anecdata. I was in a serious bike accident, broke my hip, and got a titanium rod put in, so I bike probably about 10% of what I used to. No, less than that. 5% or less (sometimes none a week).

But I try to run everyday and run fast as I can for a similar 30 second span (usually walking/jogging to or from work) every day. I also have an additional few pounds on my back (backpack). My sprinting speed is far slower than pre-accident, but it's still fairly easy to push myself as hard as I possibly can and feel pretty damn good afterward.

I'm at the same weight and general build as I was pre-accident, and I feel just as fit, although I'm biking 1-5 miles a week instead of 100-150 and eating the same general diet.

I'm very very out of shape - deconditioned. Would HIT for me be something that most people would have no problem with but would be "stressful" to my system (i.e. intense)? Wouldn't it be more based on like heartrate/THZ and such?

I'd talk to your doctor, of course, but I also would give it a try (at your comfort level) no matter your fitness state. Maybe this is my athletic background talking, but it seems like you can always give 100% or expend yourself completely for 30 seconds, and recover OK. If you can't recover OK, then yeah, don't do it.

Or try for 10 seconds of full exertion and build up. It's like anything else probably.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:46 PM on February 28, 2012


Too much.
posted by Flunkie at 2:50 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ruthless Bunny: "They're the ones hauling ass up a flight of stairs without getting winded. "

I have found that taking the stairs from time to time dramatically increases the chance that someone will look at you and think you're hauling ass up the stairs. I have also found that no matter how often you take the stairs, 8 floors is a lot when you have to do a roundtrip 4 times in one hours.
posted by wierdo at 4:03 PM on February 28, 2012


In other news, lack of exercise causes you to refer to one hour as "one hours."
posted by wierdo at 4:03 PM on February 28, 2012


Hee hee. I will share my method.

When I'm riding up a hill and I'm pretty well bushed, I imagine a dialogue between my mind and my body. I tell my body, "just make it to that next marker and we'll rest". And so I struggle up the last few meters. And just as I'm coasting to a stop, I spring the trap: "Double time!" And my my body curses me and calls me a traitorous bastard, but damned if I don't get a pretty good burst of speed all the same.

So that's how I amuse myself when I'm riding.
posted by alexei at 4:07 PM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Three minutes a day? So: if my PGC-1alpha-responsive genes, upon inspection, turn out to be configured correctly, I too can get ripped in less time than I currently spend washing the cutting board? And a British guy said so on BBC? Holy crap!
Wait - that's just running stairs. When I need to whip myself into shape I forswear the elevator and make myself run the five flights to my office as fast as I can. There are 26 steps and two landings per floor. I do it in roughly a minute. When I make 3-5 round trips a day I lose weight and my cardio endurance goes up fast. Of course I'm gasping like a wounded elk by the time I reach my floor, so maybe I don't have the right genes. My office is at the end of a long winding corridor, past huge departments of serious-looking people I don't know at all, and when I reach their doors I feel compelled to straighten my back, hold my breath, and try not to look sweaty. This probably appears even more absurd than the panting.
posted by jcrcarter at 4:28 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man I am so forwarding this to Mark Rippetoe this will set him straight *puts barbell and rack on craigslist, buys squishy hand grippers and $500 Nikes*
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:40 PM on February 28, 2012


As has been known for years, a good portion of the population simply does not respond to exercise...Some 10% don't seem to achieve any conventionally expected benefits from exercise...

What, like the six-pack abs and raging biceps they expected from doing ankle curls?
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:42 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do Tabata sets on the exercise bikes at my gym once a week. 4 minutes warm up, then 8 reps of 20 second sprints separated by 10 seconds at a gentle pace followed by 4 minutes warm down. Those middle 4 minutes are absolutely the most dreaded 4 minutes of my week. If I really go "all in" on the first couple of sprints like you're supposed to, the remainder are just pure distilled suffering, leaving me gasping for breath with legs like jelly. Given a choice between Tabata torture and spending an hour going for a 10km run, I much prefer the run. Although, you can't beat that feeling when you finish and you know you don't have to do it again for another 6 days, 23 hours and 48 minutes.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:10 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


You all noticed that this applied to aerobic fitness only? Getting big and strong still takes weights or gymnastics and eating right. I don't think Mark Rippetoe will give two shits.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:20 PM on February 28, 2012


I was adding a little bit of interval training to the short runs I take and was feeling quite pleased with the better fitness level.... but I just read this, and the wiki article on HIIT. I decided to do the Tabata routine tonite (20 seconds high intensity, 10secs slow, repeat 8 times) and holy crap, by the last one, my legs were rubbery and my lungs were on fire.
posted by storybored at 8:04 PM on February 28, 2012


Tabata training will absolutely build muscle. It really depends on what you do with your sprint: if you do super-high resistance training to fail, you'll build muscle. If you do speed reps to exhaustion, you'll build endurance. Bodies are SO WIERD they figure out what it is you are trying to do and they try and help you do that.

If you do, for example, rowing with the resistance all the way up, 20s on 10s off x 10 (five minutes), every other day, your body will demand protein like woah and in a month your damn shirts won't fit anymore. It's super annoying, so annoying in fact that I stopped doing it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:46 PM on February 28, 2012


Interestingly, the BBC article linked to the actual paper, the full text of which is available online!

The abstract states they matched it to a multi-gene RNA expression signature, which is given on page 5 of the supplemental figures/tables. You can look up the SNPs in the list by searching for it in 23andme results. Eg. rs828902 is the first one they list on page 5.

Unfortunately, without digging deeper into their data set, I'm not sure what to look for.
posted by fragmede at 12:42 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]



How fit can I get pummeling all journalists who deliberately mislead their audience by exaggerating or misrepresenting research?

I'm now at the point where I think the responsibility for obesity epimedic lies more at their door then anyone elses because they seem determined to confuse people who need simple information well explained.

This study shows that you can have improvement on a FEW measures of fitness. Not ALL of the measures of fitness. That means at the end of HITS training you will be at best partially fit. That is better than not fit at all but don't mistake it for all around fitness. This will do nothing for your strength, bone density, muscular endurance, weight, flexibility or sports specific capabilities.
posted by srboisvert at 12:49 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you do, for example, rowing with the resistance all the way up, 20s on 10s off x 10 (five minutes), every other day

I tried doing that and the damn rowing machine started going forward, nearly crashing me into the wall.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:17 AM on February 29, 2012


How fit can I get pummeling all journalists who deliberately mislead their audience by exaggerating or misrepresenting research?

The BBC headline in the FPP says "help make you fit," not "make you fit." Right in the bold-type first paragraph, they point out that it gives many of the benefits, not all of the benefits, and that how much you can benefit depends on your genes. I don't think it's in any way saying that it has all the benefits; only that it has measurable and significant benefits.

I'm not sure what anyone did here that would result in a pummeling.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 3:50 AM on February 29, 2012


For those of you who are not yet active and are thinking about using this to get fit, rethink it again. As L.P. Hatecraft pointed out above, tabata training is hard. Damn hard. End up puking type hard.

And although it's applicable to other sports that might be higher impact, running for example, keep in mind that muscles adapt faster than bones and joints. You can get faster and faster but the chance for injury will be greater because your bones and joints are not ready.
posted by 7life at 8:51 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


But you don't have to go full-on Tabata at first if you're starting out from an absolutely sedentary lifestyle imo. As far as I can apply my own example, I'd say starting out with some kind of interval training protocol (which I'd interpret as short bursts of high-intensity activity, not necessarily at 90-95% max effort, followed by recovery) on a regular basis would still be invaluable to one's overall fitness.
posted by cendawanita at 6:55 PM on February 29, 2012


So my weekly Party Rock Anthem sessions are in fact helping me, and not just a potential source of severe embarrassment. Excellent.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:23 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


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