Can Two Minutes Of High-Intensity Exercise Be As Good As Longer Workouts?

There are lots of reasons why people want to train, whether it is to lose weight, tone up, build muscle, feel fitter or boost their mental health. However, making time to squeeze in regular exercise sessions can be difficult for lots of hard-working men and women.

That is why they will surely be glad to hear you don’t actually have to spend hours sweating it out in the gym to see good results from a workout. In fact, a recent study has shown that doing just two minutes of high intensity training can be just as effective as longer sessions.

Indeed, high-intensity interval training – or HIIT – has been around for a few years and many people now sign up to an online personal trainer for powerful HIIT workouts or join a class at their local gym offering this type of exercise. But now this scientific report can prove its benefits, which will come as good news to most of us who are short on time.

Scientists at Victoria University in Australia are to thank for the new research, publishing in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology that two minutes of sprinting on a bicycle is just as effective as a leisurely 30-minute bike ride.

So why is this the case? Well, according to the researchers, exercise invigorates existing mitochondria – the organelles that produce energy for the body’s cells, which is essential to be fit and healthy – and creates new mitochondria. This latest study showed fewer minutes doing HIIT actually produced the same number of mitochondrial responses than longer workouts.

“This suggests that exercise may be prescribed according to individual preferences while still generating similar signals known to confer beneficial metabolic adaptions,” the scientists wrote in the report.

They added: “These findings have important implications for improving our understanding of how exercise can be used to enhance metabolic health in the general population.”

Using eight volunteers, they developed different exercise plans to test their mitochondria levels. One of the programmes was to ride a bike for half an hour at 50 per cent of their maximum effort; one was to do five four-minute sessions at 75 per cent with one minute of rest in between; and the last was to cycle at 100 per cent for 30 seconds at a time with four and a half minutes resting in between.

When they analysed the results, they saw the mitochondria in the volunteers’ cells were primed to duplicate and boost metabolic function in all the workouts.  This will come as good news to those who prefer shorter training sessions, as well as those who enjoy more moderate forms of exercise.

Fitness fans who are prone to overtraining might be better off doing shorter bursts of workouts instead to reduce the chances of developing some of the symptoms, which can include insomnia, persistent muscle soreness, fatigue, depression, decreased appetite and frequent bouts of illness.

If these sound familiar, the best way to recover is to implement rest days, reduce the intensity or amount of training you do, make sure you are fuelling your body with the right vitamins and calories, and treat yourself to a deep tissue massage.