High intensity training (HIT) has long been held up as an example of how to make exercise more accessible for time-starved people. It involves short bursts of intense exercise and achieves similar results to long-distance endurance training. However, the method is much less time-consuming and comes with a lower risk of injury, making it ideal for elite athletes wishing to remain injury free. In this study, the unique feature is that the HIT intervals are just 6 seconds long. Participants were asked to cycle with maximum effort for six seconds then rest for one minute, repeating the cycle 10 times. The researchers found that after just two weeks participants recorded a 10% improvement in fitness.
At the beginning of the study, all participants were asked to complete a self-paced 10km cycled time trial as quickly as they could. They were then divided into two groups: the first was to undergo three sessions of HIT a week, for two-weeks, while the second acted as a control group. As described above, for the HIT group, each of the six sessions consisted of cycling all out for six seconds, resting for one minute, and then repeating the sprint a total of 10 times.
Lead author of the study, Dr John Babraj from the University of Abertay’s School of Social and Health Sciences, ventured that one of the reasons for the dramatic improvement in fitness levels in such a short period was down to the effects the 6-second sprints have on the body’s ability to use lactate. Although lots of people think that this is a chemical by-product of exercise that causes pain and slows them down, lactate (not lactic acid) is a useful fuel that the body makes during exercise to enable it to perform at a higher level for longer. The problem that endurance athletes can run into is that they are unable to use up all the lactate by the time their blood is saturated with the potential fuel – they are producing more than they can use at a given work rate. This doesn’t happen so much in shorter sprints.
60 seconds in a gym, three times a week, and you’ll be 10% fitter in a fortnight. But really go for it for those 6 seconds!