The U.S. government recommends the average adult get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week or 75 minutes of a more strenuous workout. Most of us don't, however, using the lack of time as an excuse.
Researchers at the University of Colorado say it might not take nearly as long to achieve results if we would use an exercise technique known as sprint interval training. They have found that exercisers can burn as many as 200 extra calories in as little as 2.5 minutes of concentrated effort a day -- as long as they intersperse longer periods of easy recovery in a practice known as sprint interval training.
The finding could make exercise more manageable for would-be fitness buffs by cramming truly intense efforts into as little as 25 minutes.
Using a stationary bike as an example, the researchers suggest peddling at a moderate pace for 10 minutes or so before kicking into high gear and peddling at a fast pace for two or three minutes, then repeating the pattern. Their results showed a marked uptick in the amount of calories the volunteers burned on the workout day, despite the short amount of time spent in actual hard exercise.
"Research shows that many people start an exercise program but just can't keep it up," said Kyle Sevits, leader of the research team. "The biggest factor people quote is that they don't have the time to fit in exercise. We hope if exercise can be fit into a smaller period of time, then they may give exercise a go and stick with it."
Testing the theory
In a test, volunteers engaged in extended periods of moderate activity. One one day, they engaged in sprint interval training.
An analysis of a system that measured the subjects' calorie expenditure showed that the volunteers burned an average of an extra 200 calories on the sprint interval workout day, despite spending just 2.5 minutes engaged in hard exercise.
Though the researchers can't yet speculate on whether such efforts could translate into weight loss, Sevits and his colleagues suggest that engaging in intense, but brief, bursts of exercise could aid in weight maintenance.
"Burning an extra 200 calories from these exercises a couple of times a week can help keep away that pound or two that many Americans gain each year," Sevits said.
A word of caution: depending on age and medical factors, not everyone should engage in intense exercise. No change in exercise routine should be undertaken without first discussing it with your doctor.