Is one minute of exercise all you need?

Story highlights

High-intensity exercise for one minute could have health benefits similar to 45 minutes of moderate exercise

The quick and vigorous workout may also be just as effective at promoting weight loss

People at risk of heart disease should talk with their doctors before starting high-intensity training

CNN  — 

If someone told you that you could get a full workout in the same amount of time it takes you to make a cup of tea or take out the trash, would you believe them?

It sounds like a dubious exercise regimen promoted on a late-night infomercial, but there is actual science behind it. A recent study suggests that one minute of vigorous exercise can be just as effective for improving health as 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

Researchers asked nine previously sedentary young men to do one total minute of high-intensity cycling on a stationary bike three times a week for 12 weeks. The minute was broken down into three 20-second bursts of maximum effort, with two-minute recovery periods of moderate-intensity cycling in between.

Another group of 10 men undertook a more traditional workout consisting of 45 minutes of continuous, moderate-intensity cycling three times a week, and six men did not exercise at all.

At the end of 12 weeks, the researchers found similar gains between the high-intensity and moderate-intensity groups, compared with the no-exercise group, in terms of better blood sugar control and improved endurance and muscle function.

“This study is a relatively extreme example that shows the effectiveness of brief, very intense bursts of exercise,” said Martin J. Gibala, professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario.

The one-minute approach is “the most intense flavor of interval training,” an approach that alternates between all-out exercise and less-intense activities, said Gibala, who led the study (PDF), which was published in April in the journal PLOS ONE.