Even a 20-Second Exercise ‘Snack’ Can Improve Fitness

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As little as 20 seconds of brisk stair climbing, done several times a day, might be enough exercise to improve fitness, according to a pragmatic new study of interval-style training.

The study finds that people can complete a meaningful series of insta-workouts without leaving their office building or even changing out of their dress shoes, offering hope — and eliminating excuses — for those of us convinced that we have inadequate time, expertise, income or footwear to exercise.

By this point in January, many of us have begun to waver on our New Year’s fitness resolutions, often blaming jammed schedules for our neglected workouts.

Such perceived time constraints have fueled interest in exercise that is short but strenuous, substituting intensity for duration. These types of workouts, structured as interval sessions, consist of brief spurts of high-intensity exercise, such as 20 seconds of all-out pedaling on a stationary bicycle, interspersed with periods of rest.

I have written about the science behind high-intensity interval training , or H.I.I.T., which indicates that even a minute or so a day of hard effort can increase endurance and improve many aspects of health, including blood pressure and blood-sugar control.

But typical high-intensity interval workouts, in practice, are lengthier and less convenient than many of us might hope. They typically require time to reach the gym or running path, change, warm up and shower, in addition to the formal exercise.

Recognizing these drawbacks, exercise scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who have been noodling in their labs for years with different types and lengths of H.I.I.T. workouts, began to consider how best to simplify and shorten intense training so that it could be doable for most people but still effective.Stair climbing emerged as one option. Clambering up a stairwell demands physical effort but little planning, travel or cost, since […]

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