Minute's exercise makes you fitter, Abertay University study suggests

image captionParticipants cycled all-out for six seconds then rested and repeated

Researchers at Abertay University in Dundee have claimed that people can improve their fitness levels with just a minute of exercise.

Their experiments suggest short sprints can boost the fitness by significant levels in just two weeks.

Participants were asked to cycle all out for six seconds then rest for one minute, repeating the cycle 10 times.

They found that after two weeks participants recorded a 10% improvement in fitness.

The six-second bursts are one of the shortest sprint durations ever used in high-intensity training (HIT).

Less injury

HIT involves short bursts of intense exercise and achieves similar results to long-distance endurance training.

However, the method is much less time consuming and comes with a lower risk of injury, making it ideal for elite athletes wishing to remain injury free.

At the beginning of the study, all participants were asked to complete a self-paced 10km cycled time trial as quickly as they could.

They were then divided into two groups: the first was to undergo three sessions of HIT a week, for two-weeks, while the second acted as a control group.

For the HIT group, each of the six sessions consisted of cycling all out for six seconds, resting for one minute, and then repeating the sprint a total of 10 times.

Faster times

This amounted to just 60 seconds of exercise per session, with three sessions being completed each week.

At the end of the two weeks, subjects from both groups were assessed again and all those who had done the HIT programme finished 10% faster than they had the time before.

Lead author of the study, Dr John Babraj from the University's School of Social and Health Sciences, said one of the reasons for the dramatic improvement in fitness levels in such a short space of time was down to the effects the six-second sprints have on the body's ability to use a substance called lactate.

He said many people think the chemical causes them pain and slows them down.

He said: "Lots of people in sport talk about lactic acid affecting them in this way, but what they're actually referring to is a substance called lactate which appears in the bloodstream during exercise.

"However, far from causing pain, lactate is actually a useful fuel that the body makes during exercise to enable it to perform at a higher level for longer."

Dr Babraj said the problem for athletes was that they were unable to use up all the lactate as by the time their blood was saturated with the chemical, the races were over, but this did not happen in the shorter sprints.

He added: "Anyone who's been inspired by the Olympics to get fit and be more active, but perhaps thinks it'll involve spending hours in the gym pounding the treadmill, could do 60 seconds of exercise three times a week and be much fitter and healthier in only a fortnight."

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