Is two minutes of exercise just as good as 30 minutes?

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Need to squeeze in a workout but short on time? A few minutes of exercise may be just as effective as a longer session, according to a new report.

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Researchers from Victoria University in Australia recently conducted a small study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, to explore the effectiveness of high-intensity interval exercise versus a traditional endurance exercise.

To do so, they examined eight adults who participated in cycling workouts of varying intensity. Moderate intensity was 30 minutes of continuous exercise at 50 percent peak effort. High-intensity interval exercise was five four-minute cycling sessions, separated by a minute of rest, at 75 percent peak effort. And sprint cycling was four 30-second sessions, separated by 4.5 minutes of rest, at maximum effort.

The scientists then measured the amount of energy the participants exerted on each exercise and recorded changes in their mitochondria, the organelle responsible for respiration and energy production. Previous research shows exercise creates new mitochondria and improves the function of existing mitochondria, which could lead to beneficial changes in the cells.

After analyzing the results, they found fewer minutes of higher-intensity training produced mitochondrial responses similar to longer moderate-intensity activity.

"A total of only two minutes of sprint interval exercise was sufficient to elicit similar responses as 30 minutes of continuous moderate-intensity aerobic exercise," the authors said in a statement. "This suggests that exercise may be prescribed according to individual preferences while still generating similar signals known to confer beneficial metabolic adaptions."

The researchers said they believe their findings can help improve our understanding how “exercise can be used to enhance metabolic health in the general population.”

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