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The 10-Minute Cycling Workout that’s Just as Effective as a 50-Minute Routine

We know, you're skeptical about the headline, but the science speaks for itself.

The next time you're plodding through a run (that's more like a sad jog) in your neighborhood thinking 'I really want this to stop,' do it. Stop. Don't feel bad about it either.

New research from McMaster University, published online in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests a single minute of very intense exercise produces the same health benefits as longer endurance training (recommended by public health guidelines). Seriously. One minute of my-lungs-and-legs-are-burning-so-bad-I-might-vomit effort can substitute 45 minutes of something like that sad jog. 

To prove it, the researchers put 27 sedentary men to the test. For 12 weeks, nine of the men were asked to perform three weekly sessions of intense sprint interval training on stationary bikes, 10 were assigned to moderate-intensity continuous training (also on bikes), and six served as the control group, completing no exercise.

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During the sprint intervals, the men did 3x20 second ‘all-out’ cycle sprints at approximately 500Watts (that's the measure of your power output) with 2 minutes of cycling at 50W for recovery between sprints. During the moderate workout, the men underwent 45 minutes of continuous cycling at about 70 percent of their maximal heart rate (approximately 110W). Both groups completed a 2-minute warmup and 3-minute cool down.

Researchers examined participants' cardiorespiratory fitness, essentially their VO2 max, and insulin sensitivity, to measure how their bodies regulated blood sugar.

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After three months, all the athletes exhibited similar results and health benefits—even though the moderate-intensity continuous training involved five times as much exercise and a five-fold greater time commitment.

Peak oxygen uptake increased after training by 19 percent in both groups; and their insulin sensitivity increased similarly as well.

"Most people cite 'lack of time' as the main reason for not being active," lead study author Martin Gibala said in a press release. "Our study shows that an interval-based approach can be more efficient—you can get health and fitness benefits comparable to the traditional approach, in less time."

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If you want to give the workout a spin, here's the breakdown:

- 2-minute warmup 
- 20-second all-out sprint
* 2-minute recovery cycle*
- 20-second all-out sprint
* 2-minute recovery cycle*
- 20-second all-out sprint
- 3-minute cool down 

Don't have a stationary bike? No problem: "The basic principles apply to many forms of exercise," Gibala says. "Climbing a few flights of stairs on your lunch hour can provide a quick and effective workout. The health benefits are significant."

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