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Less Exercise Time Still Effective

Short maximal-effort cycling bursts increase power.

Woman lowering exercise time on stationary bike

Busy exercisers want a shorter exercise time, but they still expect results. Here’s some good news: Recent research shows that young, healthy, active exercisers can decrease stationary cycling exercise time by several minutes and get equivalent results by performing multiple high-intensity bouts.

University of Texas at Austin researchers conducted the 8-week study with 11 young, healthy adult men and women. Participants trained three times per week and, in each session, performed 30 bouts of 4-second intervals at near-maximal anaerobic power. As fitness levels improved, recovery time from each sprint was shortened from 30 seconds to 15 seconds, reducing the total session time to less than 10 minutes.

Data analysis showed that trainees experienced a 13.2% increase in VO2 peak, increased total blood volume and improved max anaerobic power over the 8-week period. “These observations require [us to reconsider] the minimal amount of exercise needed to significantly increase both maximal aerobic and anaerobic power,” according to researchers. Study limitations include lack of a control group and the absence of body composition testing.

The study is published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2021; 53 [12], 2536–42).

See also: Benefits of Exercise “Bursts”

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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