New research shows even small bursts of high intensity training can have significant health benefits

That was one of the interesting findings from a recent documentary presented by health journalist Dr Michael Mosley which aired in Australia on SBS Two in April.

During the episode Mosley undertook a 3 minute per week exercise program which consisted of three 20 second bursts of very intense cycling, performed 3 days per week for 4 weeks.  Yes, that’s right, just 1 minute of exercise per session for a grand total of 3 mins per week!

“What good is just 3 minutes of exercise per week ?” I can hear you saying. Well, interestingly, doing 3 minutes of this intense exercise was enough to have some positive effects on the health of not only Mosley, but also participants who had been involved in a large study by British researchers at Nottingham and Birmingham universities.

They found that three minutes of exercise per week not only dropped peoples insulin sensitivity( by 24% on average) it also suppressed peoples appetites and since the exercise was so intense, it activated more muscles than normal exercise would, giving their metabolism a solid boost too.  In some cases, people experienced increases in their aerobic fitness as well.

It is believed that by exercising intensely you activate more muscles than you would if you exercise slowly. This fires up your muscles and provides enough stimulus for your muscles to draw sugar out of your blood., improving your insulin sensitivity. This is particularly important if you have diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance.

So what does it involve?

Dr Mosley in training.(BBC)

Dr Mosley in training. (BBC)

In the case of the documentary it involved pedalling flat out for 20 seconds on a bike, resting for a short period and then going again twice more. It’s quite hard, and fatigues your muscles very quickly, I’ve tried it myself.

This type of exercise is known as High Intensity Interval Training and has been around in various forms for decades. Ask any serious athlete or trainer what interval or fartlek training is and they will tell you it is a great way to supercharge your training and achieve fast results, especially if your time poor or your routine is in need of a change.

But wait there’s more… the hottest topic around

High intensity training is currently a hot topic in exercise research and is being investigated at a number of universities around the world.

Just last month Norwegian researchers revealed results showing that previously inactive people who undertook three 4 minute bursts of intense exercise per week (12mins per week) lowered their blood pressure and blood glucose levels and improved their oxygen intake by 10% in just weeks. But another group did even better…

For amazing results, do a little morespin class woman

In the same Norwegian study, people who did just 16 minutes of high intensity training per week (in 4 bouts of 4 mins) had even better results!

The 12 minute per week exercise group experienced a 10% increase in oxygen intake whereas the 16-minute group experienced a 13% increase. Most interestingly though, the people doing 16 minutes of exercise per week were able to reduce their cholesterol and body fat more successfully than the 12 min group.

Canadian researchers also found that doing more leads to greater benefits. They found that people could improve their insulin sensitivity by 35% in just two weeks by doing 10 x 60-second bursts of intense pedalling, 3 times per week, (with 60 seconds of recovery time in between). Even with a warm up and cool down this workout still took less than 30 mins per session!


If you are unfit, overweight, inactive, diabetic or have high blood pressure read this:

The amazing results being uncovered by researchers around the world provide clear evidence that implementing even small increases in your weekly exercise levels can lead to important health and fitness benefits. In less than half an hour per session you can supercharge your muscles and reap the health benefits. Doing so will not only help you feel better it will decrease your risk of heart attack or stroke.  Short intense bursts can be added to your exercise routine to supercharge your results and save you time.

So if you are one of those people that say to yourself “I don’t have time to exercise, I’m too busy” you are cheating yourself. Starting an exercise program doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Starting is the hardest step. Go for a short walk today and speak to your doctor about seeing an exercise physiologist who can provide a safe and supervised exercise program to get your health on track.

Regular, small bursts of exercise could provide the kick start your health needs. So what are you waiting for, get started now. Your body and health will thank you for it later.


  • Regular exercise has health benefits for your body
  • High intensity exercise even of short duration can: increase your metabolism, lower your blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity – helping to manage diabetes and insulin resistance, and can be added to your current exercise program to save time.
  • For safe exercise programs and advice speak to an Accredited exercise physiologist (AEP)

Not sure what an exercise physiologist is?

Find out HERE

Did you know that we have an exercise physiologist at Coast?

Find out how Karla can help you get your health back on track HERE

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