News Release

'No time to exercise' is no excuse, study shows

Peer-Reviewed Publication

McMaster University

Hamilton, ON. September 19, 2006 – Those who maintain that the busy pace of life offers no time to exercise have just run out of another excuse, unless of course they can't spare three minutes to exercise.

The "catch" is that the exercise consists of short bursts of intense effort separated by a few minutes of recovery, meaning a single training session lasts about 20 min. However, a new study published in the Journal of Physiology shows that performing three of those sessions each week provides the same benefits as that achieved by up to two hours of daily moderate exercise.

"The most striking finding from our study was the remarkable remarkably similar adaptations induced by two such diverse training strategies," says Martin Gibala, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University.

If the study sounds familiar it is, partly: Last year, Gibala and his team made headlines when they suggested that a few minutes of high-intensity exercise could be as effective as an hour of moderate activity. However, their previous work did not directly compare sprint versus endurance training. Gibala's latest study did just that.

Sixteen young men performed six training sessions over two weeks. Eight subjects performed between four and six 30-second bursts of "all out" cycling separated by four minutes of recovery during each training session. The other eight subjects performed 90-120 minutes of continuous moderate-intensity cycling. Total training time commitment including recovery was 2.5 hours in the sprint group, whereas the endurance group performed 10.5 hours of total exercise over two weeks. Both groups showed similar improvements in exercise performance and the muscle's ability to resist fatigue.

"Our study shows confirms that interval-based exercise is indeed a very time-efficient training strategy," says Gibala. "It is a demanding type of training and requires a high level of motivation, however it might be the perfect option for those who say they have no time to exercise."

For weight-conscious exercisers who are concerned that high-intensity training doesn't burn as many calories as long-duration exercise, Gibala says: "People forget that if you do a 30-second hard spurt your body continues to burn calories during recovery; just because you have physically stopped racing doesn't mean the effects of the workout are over."


McMaster University, a world-renowned, research-intensive university, fosters a culture of innovation, and a commitment to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University, one of only four Canadian universities to be listed on the Top 100 universities in the world, has a student population of more than 23,000, and an alumni population of more than 120,000 in 128 countries.

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