Twelve-minute weekly exercise regime 'enough to improve your health'

It's the news many a couch potato has been waiting for - just 12 minutes exercise each week could be enough to improve your health if you are overweight. According to a new study, those on the heavy side can benefit significantly from four-minute bursts of high-intensity exercise.

12-minute high intensity workout could improve health

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The team of researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim put 12 overweight male volunteers through their paces over a period of 10 weeks.

They found that with just 12 minutes of high-intensity exercise, such as running on a treadmill, spread out over three weekly sessions increased the body's oxygen uptake by 10 per cent, while blood pressure and glucose levels decreased slightly.

Meanwhile a further 12 volunteers completed three 16-minute sessions, each divided into four-minute bursts. And though these more intensive sessions produced better results in terms of lowering cholesterol and body fat, the positive changes in oxygen uptake, blood pressure and glucose levels were surprisingly similar to those adopting the shorter exercise regime.

Reported in the Public Library of Science ONE journal, the study suggests a short, sharp fitness programme could lower the risk of death from serious conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

According to the Daily Telegraph, researcher Dr Arnt Erik Tjønna said: "Since we know that more and more people are inactive and overweight, the kind of improvement in physical fitness that we saw in this study may provide a real boost for inactive people who are struggling to find the motivation to exercise."

However, Dr Thomas Lee, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, told the paper that short periods of very intense exercise are not suitable for everyone, saying: "I think this approach, which used to be known as 'intervals', is very reasonable and accepted among young athletes... I don't encourage it among most of my older patients."

What do you think? Would you be more inclined to get fit with a short but high-intensity workout? Leave your comments below...