Thursday, June 09, 2005

Fitness takes six minutes a week

http://edition.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/06/06/sprint.training/

Of course, this is total nonsense. If six minutes a week was all it took to get fit, we could just devote one minute a day, six days a week to working out, and take Sunday off.

This report is a pretty good example of people taking research and interpreting the results really badly.

They have taken 16 people, 8 of whom have done nothing, and 8 of whom have worked out. Of the sixteen, the eight who worked out showed improvements over the eight who didn't. Well, we don't need research to show that any kind of working out is better than not working out at all.

The workout they are talking about is interval sprints, which by the way is a very good way of improving your stamina. When you do long bouts of cardio, your body adapts really quickly to the routines and you start getting diminishing returns both in terms of weight loss and also in terms of endurance gains. That is why you see many people in the gym running and biking on the machines and not seeming to get very far fitnes wise. Your body will sooner or later figure out the efficient way of doing these activities.

What happens in interval sprints is that you do short bursts (say 30 seconds) of the workout (biking/running/whatever) at very high intensity (hence sprint), and then recover by doing the same activity at a lower intensity. So, for instance, if you were to apply this to running, a typical routine would look like this
jog : 90 seconds
sprint : 30 seconds
jog : 90 seconds
sprint : 30 seconds
jog : 90 seconds
sprint : 30 seconds
jog : 90 seconds
sprint : 30 seconds

This whole workout woud total only 8 minutes but packs quite a punch. The sprints kill you, and the jogs ensure that you cannot just stop. This sort of workout really shocks your body and forces it to perform. This leads to positive improvements in your stamina and overall fitness.

Now, the researchers have had the subjects do four 30 second sprints followed by 4 minute recovery times. The writer of the article has added up the sprint times for each day (2 minutes), multiplied that by 3 (since they workout 3 times a week) and come up with the magic time of six minutes of working out per week.

But, when you do four 30-second sprints, with four minutes of recovery, in reality, you are working out for 18 minutes, and done 3 times a week, comes to 54 minutes per week, which is nine times the time that the article claims.

Mind you, I think that interval sprints are great to improve stamina and get fit. They are my preferred mode of cardio (when I do cardio, that is :-) ). I find that these sprints really challenge me and keep me from getting bored. After all, running on the treadmill for 25-30 minutes does get old fast.

But, I think that this article is grossly misleading in terms of what it promises. If you want to do interval training, you better be willing to devote more than six minutes a week for your fitness regimen.

2 comments:

Goan Pao said...

6 minutes a week..u kiddin me. I workout an entire ten minutes and dont see any effect. I also try to drink low fat drinks like 2 bottles of diet soke a day, and healthy food like a subway sandwich with extra mayo on it.
Deriving results based on surveys like these is ridiculous.

yesbob said...

a new post please