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Ten minutes on the stairs as good as an hour in the gym?

New research suggests that short bursts of vigorous exercise can have just as much impact as an hour in the gym.

The research challenges the notion that we all need a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.

If correct, it could lead to ways of overcoming one of the biggest hurdles people have to taking up physical activity - a lack of time.

The high quality study was conducted by scientists at McMaster University in Canada. They compared three groups:

  • A moderate-intensity-exercise group, spending 45 minutes on a fixed cycle of the sort used in a typical gym three times a week (total time commitment 150 minutes)
  • A high-intensity-exercise group, spending 10 minutes doing three short 20 second sprints on a fixed cycle three times a week (total time commitment 30 minutes)
  • A control group who did nothing.

Detailed measures of heart health, blood-sugar response and cellular energy production were taken before and after to judge the impact the different exercise regimes had on participants health.

The control group had no change in results as expected. The health benefits accruing to the other two groups were basically identical - clearly showing that the short sharp exercise regime was as good as the more time-intensive one.

The authors concluded: “Intense interval exercise improved indices of cardiometabolic health to the same extent as traditional endurance training in sedentary men, despite a five-fold lower exercise volume and time commitment.

“Considering that a large number of individuals do not meet the current physical activity recommendations, there is value in exploring the potential benefits of exercise strategies that involve reduced time commitment”.

Stair climbing is considered a vigorous form of exercise that burns more calories per minute than running. To view the full benefits of stair climbing, click here.

Health benefits of stair climbing

Stair climbing is considered a vigorous form of exercise that burns more calories per minute than running.

View the full benefits