Short Bursts of Exercise to Improve Health and Fitness

People Running on Bridge

Australian public health advisory recommends spending an average of 150 minutes of aerobic exercises per week. But many people complain of having no time to exercise, so what is the solution? A recent study by Prof. Martin Gibala and his team and fitness expert Anja Taylor showed that doing a short burst of high-intensity exercise can actually achieve fitness levels comparable to those who do longer sessions. Let’s uncover the science behind why it actually works.

The answer lies inside your cells, the mitochondria to be precise. Mitochondria serves as the powerhouse of the living cell, and use the corrosive power of oxygen to convert electrons from the food we eat into energy in the form of a molecule called ATP. Firing up the mitochondria involves a sudden burst of oxygen, which only happens when we push our body to do high-intensity aerobic exercises. In simple terms, doing more rapid and intense exercise has more significant benefits to your body in terms of unlocking energy.

Why is that so?

Think about how you exert yourself when you sprint. Sprinting is a common high-intensity exercise that recruits all of your muscle fibres at once. This means that billions of your mitochondria get fired up, efficiently converting energy from the food you eat. And since this rapid conversion of energy from food require oxygen in the process, it also increases the body’s oxygen capacity levels. More importantly, doing bursts of high-intensity exercise is that it ensures timely replacement of older mitochondria with new and better functioning ones.

Sedentary lifestyle does a lot of harm to your mitochondria. Lazy lifestyle, lazy mitochondria. When you don’t exercise as much, the mitochondria is forced to use up a little amount of oxygen to convert minimal energy from the food you eat. This is what leads to fat formation. Not stretching the optimum capacity of the mitochondria makes them old and less efficient, which saps the body’s energy level.

So how often do you need to do high-intensity exercises to maintain optimum mitochondrial function? It’s often hard to convey the intensity that is required to enjoy the benefits but think of giving it as hard an effort as you can give. Go as hard as you can for a short burst (30 sec to 1 minutes) then rest for 1-2 minutes.  Continue for a minimum of 6 minutes.  This is called high intensity interval training.

In  the “Fit in 6 minutes a week” ABC Catalyst piece, Anja Taylor had the test subjects observe 30-second sprints with 4 repetition and 3 sessions per week for 15 weeks. At the end of the program, there was a significant improvement to the participants’ fitness levels, including 1.5 kg average fat loss and an average decrease of 5 cm to their waist measurement.

Gradually increase the number of repetition per session to help yourself develop a fitness routine that can improve your health and fitness level. Start doing your 30-second exercise today and see the difference it makes.

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