Short Burst Vs. Long Duration Exercise

It wasn’t too long ago when we were told that you needed to do long distance cardio workouts to be optimally healthy.  We also hear the argument often that it just takes too much time to work out. In our busy schedules, we really don’t have time to be optimally healthy, right?


There is a ton of evidence to suggest the opposite when it comes to how much we should exercise.  Their are studies that show how shorter duration exercise done vigorously is just as effective at burning fat as a long duration aerobic workout.  In fact, in many cases it is more beneficial.

This is exercise blasphemy!

Trust me, years ago if someone would have tried to tell me that their ten minute workout was as good as my 90 minute workout, I would say that they were crazy.

Now – not so much.

Here is an article that details a study done in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2005.

The study— involved 23 men and women aged between 25 and 35 who were tested to see how long it took them to cycle 18.6 miles. The subjects, who all did some form of regular moderate exercise, were then given varying exercise programmes three times a week.

The participants did varying workouts depending on their group.  The exercises ranged from short, 2 minute duration workouts to long, 2 hour workouts.

The key findings in terms of overall health showed that the two-minute workout produced the same muscle enzymes – essential for the prevention of type 2 diabetes – as riding 10 times as long. That is significant in the light of growing levels of unfitness. Obesity has trebled in Britain since 1982, leading to a rise in type 2 diabetes. The Department of Health estimates that unfit Britons cost the country £2 billion a year in the treatment of heart disease and other related illnesses.


Prof Gibala, of the health department of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, said: “We thought there would be benefits but we did not expect them to be this obvious. It shows how effective short intense exercise can be.”

[Full article:]

There are several other examples listed in the article, which is published in The Telegraph and linked to above.  Basically, the key differential is how our bodies respond physiologically to the type of exercise we are doing.

Part of the reason why long-duration exercise may not provide a proportional benefit is that our body is not challenged to respond in the same way as short duration, intense exercise.

And that is the key – short duration exercise provides the benefit if it is done in an intense fashion.  It is focused.  It is vigorous.  Contrast this to the 2 hour gym routine that includes leisurely walking from machine to machine and 15 water breaks!

Oh, and this means there is no excuse to not having the time to exercise anymore.

Sorry (not really).

If you would like some tips on how to make these short workouts work for you – call us up and make an appointment!

We’re here to help…

Dr. Joel


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