There's no excuse not to exercise anymore - a team of researchers from McMaster University in Canada has discovered that just a single minute of intense exercise can produce the same health benefits as longer endurance training, a finding that challenges the idea that some people just don't have time to get in shape.

The team examined the differences between the effects of sprint interval training (SIT) and moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT), focusing on important health indicators such as cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity. 

"This is a very time-efficient workout strategy," said Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University and lead author of the study. "Brief bursts of intense exercise are remarkably effective."

Gibala and his team previously showed that the SIT protocol - three 20-second "all-out" sprints - is very effective for increasing fitness. In the current study, the SIT workouts were increased to 10 minutes in order to incorporate a two-minute warm-up and three-minute cool-down, as well as two minutes of light cycling as a recovery exercise between the sprints.

The study examined 27 sedentary men who performed three weekly sessions of either intense or moderate training and compared the results to a group that performed 45 minutes of continuous cycling at a moderate pace as well as the same warm-up and cool-down periods. Each group participated in 12 weeks of training, and results were compared to a control group that did not exercise at all.

Remarkably, after the end of the training period, both groups showed almost identical results, even though those that conducted the MICT protocol exercised five times as much as the SIT group.

"Most people cite 'lack of time' as the main reason for not being active," Gibala said. "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."

"The basic principles apply to many forms of exercise," he added. "Climbing a few flights of stairs on your lunch hour can provide a quick and effective workout. The health benefits are significant."

The findings were published in the April 26 issue of PLOS ONE.