Short, High-Intensity Workouts: Are They For You?


Women who come to Green Mountain at Fox Run often ask how much exercise they should be doing. According to the New York Times article, The Rise of the Minimalist Workout, perhaps they should be changing their question to how little.

According to the article, it is possible to gain fitness through very small amounts of strenuous exercise.

According to the article, it is possible to gain fitness through very small amounts of strenuous exercise, though it’s still unclear what the long-term effects are. Some examples include:

—   Three four-minute runs a week — at a pace equivalent to 90 percent of a person’s maximal heart rate — improved volunteers’ endurance capacity by about 10 percent after 10 weeks.

—   30 seconds of intense, all-out pedaling followed by a brief rest, repeated five or six times — led to the same muscle-cell adaptations as 90 to 120 minutes of prolonged bike riding.

The most recent research suggests that a few minutes per week of strenuous exercise can improve aerobic fitness, generally more quickly than moderate activity does. But the jury is still out on how short, hard workouts contribute to weight management.

So, how do you determine what’s right for you? First, start by looking at your goals and your workout needs.

LynnAnn Covell, senior fitness instructor at Green Mountain at Fox Run, sees the possible benefits of such short, intense workouts, but cautions about doing them regularly.  While small intense bursts of movement have their place within a well-rounded exercise menu, she agrees with the many researchers in the article, that long-term results are still questionable.

“If you’re short on time, LynnAnn recommends completing a 10-minute workout before work and 10 minutes when you get home. Having SPRI Tubes and Dyna-bands, or even Green Mountain’s DVDs make quick workouts a cinch to complete. Even better, take your workout outside! Experience the benefits of sunlight, fresh air and Vitamin D.”

To complement shorter workouts during the week, LynnAnn suggests longer cardiovascular and strength training exercise periods during the weekend.

Masha Proshutina, Green Mountain fitness specialist, has similar views, “I think that it is pretty cool to not have to work out for an hour and be able to achieve similar cardiovascular benefits. Now, would those three-to-seven minute workouts improve your cardiovascular fitness? Not if we are going off of ACSM’s recommendations for physical activity. However, I do believe that a sustained 10-20 min of high intensity exercise would do the deed. And if you think about it, 10-20 min a day is really not that long of a duration.”

So what’s the take away? A well-rounded exercise plan can include training in strength, cardio, balance, core and stretching. Experiment to see which workouts give you the results you are looking for. Be curious & willing to try new things.

And if you do want to experiment with the high-intensity, short-duration route, first visit a doctor for clearance, then simply push yourself very hard during your next workout, whether it is running, cycling or Zumba.

Do you have any experience with high-intensity workouts? What results did you see?

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