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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

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How Little Exercise Is "Enough" Exercise?

Half began a supervised exercise program that reiterated the Norwegian researchers’ former routine. After briefly warming up, these volunteers ran on a treadmill at 90 percent of their maximal heart rate — a tiring pace, says Dr. Tjonna, at which “you cannot talk in full sentences, but can use single words” — for four four-minute intervals, with three minutes of slow walking between, followed by a brief cool-down. The entire session was repeated three times a week for 10 weeks.

The second group, however, completed only one four-minute strenuous run. They, too, exercised three times a week for 10 weeks.

At the end of the program, the men had increased their maximal oxygen uptake, or endurance capacity, by an average of 10 percent or more, with no significant differences in the gains between the two groups.

Four minutes. The answer is four minutes.



112 Comments / Post A Comment

area@twitter

Four minutes?!

I CAN DO ZAT!

fondue with cheddar

@area@twitter Four minutes of strenuous running, though? That sounds like torture. I'd rather do an hour of brisk walking.

Biketastrophy

So basically people who don't exercise get healthier with some exercise?

I feel like I'm missing something.

fondue with cheddar

@Biketastrophy I think the point is that exercising a lot is no better than exercising a little.

Biketastrophy

@fondue with cheddar Well either way if you keep doing that four minute exercise for a while, you're going to plateau. Alright, so the guy who does really intense really short workouts is going to gain as much as the slow long distance person at first, but I bet the slow long distance person will have more gains over the long term.

Also I hate anything just labeled "moderate" A moderate bike ride for me is cruising at about 12mph, while a moderate bike ride for others could be anywhere from 6-18mph depending on fitness level. Its a really poor marker.

I don't know, sometimes these studies frustrate me.

RK Fire

@Biketastrophy My very small and moderate knowledge of running seems to suggest that short sprints work different muscles than long, slow jogs (fast twitch vs slow twitch) so there's no guarantee that long, slow joggers will get more gains over the long term.

Also, I know some folks who have interval trained for moderate distances with some success. At the end of the day, I suspect you only get more gains the longer you stick with something, which seems like a no brainer but I think helps diffuse some of the "what is the best strategy?!?!?" anxiety.

fondue with cheddar

@Biketastrophy Yeah, these studies are certainly not holistic, but I guess their usefulness depends what your goal is. Some people are more concerned with heart health than weight loss.

angelinha

@Biketastrophy This assumes that the only goal of exercise is to increase your maximal oxygen uptake. Which...what does that mean? I guess that's something I want.

ThatWench

@Biketastrophy
Every single curve measuring "fitness level" has a plateau, right? (Our paltry scientific understanding of the human body seems to support this.)

So for me, getting to any sort of "top of the plateau" where I'm less likely to die of a heart attack is my primary fitness goal. It seems to be the one these researchers were testing for, as well: how "early" does this particular heart-attack-related plateau start?

There's definitely far-higher levels of fitness one could work towards, and this is definitely not the right fitness regime to get you there. But getting there is not my (current) goal, so this is good news for motivating me to take the stairs.

RK Fire

@angelinha Maximal oxygen uptake is a measure of cardio fitness, according to wikipedia. I mostly remember it when I foolishly tried out for a regional rugby side (just to do the skill development camps) and did a oxygen uptake test, aka "the beep test." It involved a lot of sprints. :(

I was not selected.

Biketastrophy

@ThatWench See that would be better if they were like "Okay its only 4 minutes a day to reach this exercise level where you're 75% less likely to have a heart attack" or something like that.

This is just vague things that seem to have no relevance.

ThatWench

@Biketastrophy
From the article: "Since improved maximal oxygen uptake can reliably indicate better overall cardiovascular health..."

For me, the main take-away is: research strongly supports a link between exercise and health, especially the cardiovascular kind. The exact mechanisms that cause one to influence the other are still largely in the dark. These are just the measures - oxygen uptake, blood sugar control, blood pressure - that we think (right now) are the best indicators of the relationship. But maybe I'm/we're all wrong. (Highly likely.)

Biketastrophy

@ThatWench Okay, so vague things that have a bit of relevance, but aren't very specific.

And also we learned I'm bad at reading.

RK Fire

So what if I tried to pare this down even further.. to say, 1 minute of strenuous running?

fondue with cheddar

@RK Fire I only run strenuously to catch up with the ice cream truck.

anachronistique

@fondue with cheddar "I only run when I'm being chased, sir."

queenofbithynia

@RK Fire a mere thirty seconds of anxiety attacking works my heart muscle like crazy. purest form of cardio there is. I do it every day because I am hard core.

stonefruit

@anachronistique That is actually my life philosophy. I had no idea it was a real thing, I just follow that because otherwise I fall and injure myself.

anachronistique

@stonefruit I live my life according to the precepts of the teen horror flick "The Faculty."

Apocalypstick

@anachronistique Always have a biro handy and know where your nearest dealer is?

backstagebethy

@RK Fire "That finding, though, inevitably raises the question of whether the bar could drop even lower. Could, for instance, a mere two minutes of strenuous training effectively improve health and fitness?

Dr. Tjonna, the killjoy, doubts it."

RK Fire

@backstagebethy Damn, I totally missed that.

milenakent

I love you ed!!!@n

cuminafterall

I would never do this, because I'd feel like an idiot doing the whole change into gym clothes, shower, change back into regular clothes routine for a measly 4-minute workout.

Bloodrocuted

@cuminafterall Change, workout, shower... stay in, watch a movie, and so on?

fondue with cheddar

@Bloodrocuted Work out naked before your regular daily shower?

Bloodrocuted

@fondue with cheddar Just in case working out while dressed doesn't make you self-conscious enough.

RubeksCube

@fondue with cheddar @Bloodrocuted All I can hear in my head is Phil Ken Sebben saying "Ha ha! Dangly parts." ...in other news, I am still 13.

RK Fire

@cuminafterall I honestly feel like this knowledge is perfect for my workout style since I hate any sort of conditioning and like only to lift. Four minutes of running means that I can go through 1.5 hours of lifting without having to worry about my heart? SWEEEEEEET.

fondue with cheddar

@Bloodrocuted Just don't look in the mirror while you do it. And don't look down. And hang onto your boobs.

Bloodrocuted

@fondue with cheddar My workout room is mirrored all over, for precision, I would actually die of shame.

PS What do cheese roosters know about human exercise anyway

cuminafterall

@RK Fire Ooh, hadn't considered tacking it onto my weightlifting routine... will my legs hate me for making them run like crazy after squatting? WE'LL SEE.

whizz_dumb

@cuminafterall Just signed up to my local YMCA last night. Think I have buyer's remorse.

RubeksCube

@Bloodrocuted I also work out in front of a mirror. I feel like I'm flailing about, so it keeps me (hopefully) from causing myself grievous bodily harm. Removing clothing would just be waaay too ridiculous for me to handle.

Bloodrocuted

@RubeksCube It's not hard to find a lot of full-length mirrors if you want to do the whole room in self-loathing.
You get precision, correctness, "ew, look at those scars on my back" and "ew, never not wearing a shirt again".

coolallison

@cuminafterall I think if you did it before weights, your muscles would be warmer and that's better or something.

whizz_dumb

I am really looking forward to playing racket ball, it seems right up my acoustics nerd alley.

whizz_dumb

racket ball racquetball. whatever.

The Black Laser

I don't buy it. Sure, if you're a big soft fattie sloth, ANY regular exercise will be beneficial, but you're never going to get into great shape with only 4 minutes of strenuous running 3 times a week. You'd be completely ignoring all other muscle groups. So, you end up a less-soft, less-fat person? If you're shooting for mediocrity, go for it! But you'll never gain functional strength that way. You're still going to hurt your back carrying your kids around.

fondue with cheddar

@The Black Laser They're only talking about endurance, not weight loss.

Also, we don't like fat shaming here so please refrain.

RK Fire

@fondue with cheddar Also, I think it's key that the indicators they focused on were blood sugar levels, blood pressure levels, and oxygen uptake. They admit that body fat percentages were the same, and I don't think that anyone even tried to argue that this affects muscle mass positively or negatively.

cecil hungry

@The Black Laser I am always shooting for mediocrity!

EpWs

@cecil hungry I want to half-assedly cross-stitch this on a throw pillow.

fondue with cheddar

@cecil hungry It is an attainable goal!

area@twitter

@fondue with cheddar "Big Fattie Sloth" is the name of my new hybrid marijuana crop.

RK Fire

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Hopefully it can be next to a picture of a comet hurtling towards the earth.

leonstj

@The Black Laser - As a dude who's a big soft fattie sloth, I am now aiming for mediocrity because that would be one hell of an improvement. I'm never going to be LL Cool J, but just not being Big Pun would be a massive improvement for me.

(NB: I'm way out of shape by my own faults - I am one of those people who is overweight because of a severe series of poor choices sustained over a decade and a half, and what I'm saying does not apply to the very real and well-populated group of people who are not the shape/weight society deems ideal through no lack of proper living on their own part, and it's fucked up that we judge people on quick looks & make ourselves arbiter of the health of others.)

EpWs

@RK Fire Ideally with "mediocrity" misspelled

area@twitter

@leon s No, s/he's right, it's too late for us to attempt to be worthwhile people. I might as well go back home to my couch and eat American cheese until the Reaper shows up with a forklift to take me to my well-deserved grave.

anachronistique

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher I am adding this to my list of things to put on samplers once I learn to cross-stitch.

EpWs

@anachronistique I know, right? RK Fire's additions really make it work, though.

iceberg

@area@twitter 64 slices of American cheese... *aump* 63...

area@twitter

@iceberg YES THAT'S IT EXACTLY

fondue with cheddar

@iceberg I can't eat American cheese because I find it gross, but I have eaten a brick of sharp cheddar.

iceberg

@area@twitter

iceberg

@fondue with cheddar i love you even more for this.

fondue with cheddar

@iceberg Haha, sometimes I forget my username is cheese.

laurel

@iceberg I FINK IM BLIND

RubeksCube

Isn't this just a really short version of interval training? Am I imagining that?

RK Fire

@RubeksCube The first scenario is definitely interval training, full stop. The second scenario is interval training if you only decide to the first interval?

RubeksCube

@RK Fire oooh, like Choose Your Own Adventure interval training! Choose Your Own Interval?

EpWs

@RubeksCube "For a 30-minute tapata workout, turn to page 17. For a 3-minute interval workout, turn to page 32."

"17. You have died."
"32. Good enough!"

queenofbithynia

oh, a health study performed on men only, results presented as a "suggestion for [...] people." that's new.

p.s. HIIT can bite me. I walk six miles every day (to & from work) outside of any exercise I do or do not do, and I do not sprint, I stroll like a human being. sometimes I amble. course I am terribly unhealthy but maybe dignity is worth it.

EpWs

@queenofbithynia If you're strolling six miles a day, I think you're doing better than "terribly unhealthy"!

SarcasticFringehead

@queenofbithynia Obviously! Because women are simultaneously so different from men that including them in the study would make it far too complicated, and so similar that the results can be generalized to them without concern! SCIENCE!

SuperGogo

@queenofbithynia 26! There were only 26 total men in the whole study. I work in health care communications, and it drives me batty when news orgs pounce on these half-assed studies and write them up like they're Big News, which undermines people's perceptions about the reliability of health news, because in a week they'll be another half-assed study with the exact opposite results.

whizz_dumb

@SuperGogo It seems like I'm trying to sound smart when I often say "small sample size" but I really mean it every time because it happens all the time. Plus I enjoy the alliteration.

RK Fire

@SuperGogo I'd also really like to know the race & class spread on it, but hey, it's only 26 middle-aged men!

brilliantmistake

@SuperGogo: Both the researchers and the press make a common statistical error. They confuse NOT observing a statistical difference between groups with demonstrating that there truly isn't a difference between groups. From a stats nerd point of view, they are two separate questions with two separate tests ("Is there really a difference between these groups?" vs "Is there really no difference between these groups"). You need a much bigger sample to be able to definitively answer the second question.

frenz.lo

I will always prefer hours of repetitious plodding to anything fast-paced or fun.

martinipie

Man, the more conflicting studies I read about exercise and health, the more my personal motto of DO WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD goes off in flashing lights in my head. Don't feel good when you eat bread? DON'T EAT IT. Feel great? EAT IT. Feel good with your daily walk? JUST WALK. Rather play squash twice a week? DO THAT. Rather not do anything? HAVE AT IT. Aaaaaaaaaa everybodyandeveryBODYisdifferentohmyfuckinggod.

wallsdonotfall

@martinipie and WE WILL ALL DIE ANYWAY

EpWs

@wallsdonotfall SO YOU'VE DECIDED TO ACCEPT YOUR INEVITABLE DOOM

avocadosandwich

@martinipie Yeahhhhh, do what makes you feel good! Perfect.

Linette

@martinipie Your philosophy also seems to work in reverse. "Hey, you're not happy? Do something else! Do you like it? Keep doing it! Now rinse and repeat."

noodge

soooo I've been doing the famed "7 minute workout" that came out recently, which is a variation of HIIT that lasts just over 7 minutes. My rationale is that 1.) I need exercise to help keep my PCOS in check and 2.) ain't nobody got time for that when you're working and schooling, both full time. So I'm happy to report that it seems to be cutting it for my exercise requirements. I dont' do it every day, but at least twice a week (aka: 2 out of my 3-4 exercise sessions I fit into a week). My symptoms aren't any worse? in some ways they're better? I will always prefer my pole dance workouts, but I've got to cut corners until I'm done with school so at least I can do it without losing the benefits I gain from exercise, it seems.

polka dots vs stripes

@noodge I think that's the basis of crossfit? Like you do some weightlifting and whatever before/after but really the entire crux of the workout is a 7 minute high intensity cardio workout.

So, while crossfit has it's problems, sounds like you're doing okay.

BoozinSusan

@noodge Wait, which symptoms of your PCOS have improved? (From one PCOSer to another)

noodge

@BoozinSusan well, I'm pretty atypical: I don't have hirsuitism and I'm not overweight, but my cycles can get really messed up - up to 70 days long - and my ovaries get cystic and make my ovulations very painful (3-5 days of significant discomfort), so both of those symptoms are controlled with exercise. I tried everything before: metformin, diet change, EVERYTHING and exercise seems to be my silver bullet.

BoozinSusan

@noodge Good to know! Might incorporate some of that high-intensity stuff or more exercise into my life, besides bike-riding :-D

noodge

@BoozinSusan DO IT! I stumbled onto it by accident - I chart my cycles because they're so irregular, and when I was in a dance company, dancing upwards of 6-10 hours per week, my cycles were really good. But then I quit (because they made us perform to an Insane Clown Posse song yes really) and within a few months everything was all jacked up again. I couldn't figure it out, and finally when I put 2 and 2 together and started exercising it all got back to normal within 2-3 months. So obviously YMMV but I'm a big advocate of exercise in general, but especially for those who have metabolic/hormonal issues. good luck!

theotherginger

@noodge ha. I just started crossfit. Not sure I'm into their nutrition stuff, but the combo of weights and cardio is good for me. because I FEEL better when I lift, but need some coaching. And I think seeing myself stronger is worth it. For me. But not for everyone! Do what you like! Feel good!

alpacasloth

@noodge Sometimes I'm afraid to tell people I do crossfit because they'll give me the side eye and ask me if I eat like a caveman. Nah, I did the paleo thing for 45 days and it just... isn't for me. But the workouts are amazing. It's all about finding what works for you! I discovered that I love weightlifting, but I will hate running forever. FOREVER

whizz_dumb

Unfortunately, if we're playing Jeopardy rules it could be: "What is the average time it takes for a normal man to ejaculate during sexual intercourse."

This is why whiskey is our friend.

iceberg

@whizz_dumb 3.5 minutes, if a baby starts crying and you have to finish real quick.

*JOKE.

whizz_dumb

Everyone working in an office, search that question in your coworker's browser while they're away from their desk. (And yes I am embarrassed that I used a period instead of a question mark.)

whizz_dumb

@iceberg One person's "unfortunately" is another's "fortunately".

iceberg

@whizz_dumb just on the TMI tip, I feel like if it takes longer than 15 minutes, you're doin' it wrong. I have a short attention span, and I got other things to do (like sleep). #FELLAS

whizz_dumb

@iceberg Oh 15 minutes should be plenty of time. But, to join you in the TMI dept., sometimes you're both well rested having just woke up, have no obligations/nowhere to be, you just met two days ago and you stayed up talking for hours last night laughing and getting to know each other so you might be in the mood for a marathon--can't get enough of each other. Not like nonstop, a few breaks to drink water are a necessity. #HYPOTHETICALLY

garli

I can't be the only one who's entire fitness goals can be summed up in the thought "I work out so that when I want to do fun shit I can do it with out hurting myself"

SarcasticFringehead

@garli Definitely not the only one, as long as you revise to "not hurting/embarrassing myself."

amirite

@garli Yes, thank you! I work out so that I can play roller derby. (Also because it helps me sleep better, but that is not as much of a motivator as wanting to have fun on my skates and body check people.)

Li'l Sebastian

@garli Yes, that is my exact life goal. Curse you, knee injury.

garli

@Li'l Sebastian Oh yeah it doesn't save you from injury (curse you twice broken tibia, you dick) but like I am able to go snowboarding* for a couple of days and not feel like my thighs are gonna explode.

*Or what ever stupid thing I decide is necessary for fun that weekend.

honey cowl

ughhhhhhhh WHY is this even a thing.
- study performed on tiny sample of dudes = applicable to all people, even ladies.
- the fat-shaming.
- almost worst of all, the attitude that exercise sucks & isn't fun.

I may be biased here but EXERCISE IS SO GREAT & if we keep telling everybody how much it sucks & how little you can "get away with" whether that's "to get a bikini bod" or"to not die of a heart attack" isn't positive for anybody. how about actually this is great for you & fun okay.

wallsdonotfall

@honey cowl I'd be really interested in more exercise pieces focusing on "how to get through the feeling that you are on the verge of immediately dying" and "how to stop fainting every time you do cardio for more than three minutes" or maybe "tips for devising an exercise program that doesn't require money or more than half an hour a day, because who has that?"

iceberg

@wallsdonotfall all of this. ETA: Lifting 25-odd pounds of toddler several times a day, not sleeping, and eating the scraps of your ungrateful children's breakfast seems to be a great weight-loss plan but it's not particularly heart healthy.

SarcasticFringehead

@iceberg And not the cheapest plan out there, although I guess it has some other benefits.

laurel

@wallsdonotfall Seriously. Occasionally during yoga or climbing or tennis or cycling I get a little feeling of "ooooo, that was awesome, look at what I can do." I'd love to see people who are feeling poorly from lack of exercise be encouraged to have experiences where they can feel how beautiful their bodies are and what extraordinary things they're capable of.

iceberg

@SarcasticFringehead damn straight, at least regular weightlifting weights don't require daycare ;)

RubeksCube

@iceberg I have recently subscribed to this plan, minus the breakfast bit. I am only up to 8 lbs, but hope to see results* by continually increasing the weight of the baby/future-toddler.
*sarcasm

honey cowl

@wallsdonotfall Holla. I hear you. May not be the most reliable source on those but I would read & comment the heck out of them. I work in the running industry ("industry"???) & seeing new runners make that leap from "this sucks this sucks this sucks" to "HOLY CRAP RUNNING IS AWESOME" is so rewarding.

theotherginger

@honey cowl and that is why exercise is worth it. I must continually remind myself of this, but if that's not what I'm there for, in the end, it won't work for me.

Faintly Macabre

@iceberg Yeah, but a screaming toddler is basically a Shakeweight, so, bonus!

cinnamonskin

@iceberg But that's what the Cheerios are for!

cinnamonskin

I'm going to eat bacon for four minutes.

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