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.
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...