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A study finds a HIIT workout that lasts 10 minutes may have health benefits. Rob and Julia Campbell / Stocksy
  • For years, people have explored high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as a quick way to get healthy.
  • Now, a study finds a HIIT workout that lasts 10 minutes may have health benefits.
  • Experts say what makes this HIIT training so different is the short the intense training bursts of just 4 seconds.

For years, people have explored HIIT training as a quick way to get healthy.

Now a new study looked at a HIIT program that took just 10 minutes.

Short bursts of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can lead to optimal performance and health benefits in just 10 minutes a day, according to the new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.

For this small study, 11 healthy and recreationally active young adult volunteers participated in high-intensity cycling three times a week for 8 weeks. They cycled at maximum effort for 4 seconds and rested for 15 to 30 seconds before beginning another 4-second sprint.

Each sprint-rest bout was repeated up to 30 times in a single workout session, for a total of 10 minutes, said Remzi Satiroglu, a doctoral student in exercise physiology and the study’s lead author. The average age of the volunteers was 21. Six were male and five were female.

For the first week, participants started with 30 bouts of exercise and rested for 30 seconds after each bout. For weeks 2, 3, and 4, they had 24 seconds rest. For the final 4 weeks, they rested 15 seconds.

The study, which is yet to be published, was presented virtually in April at the American Physiological Society’s (APS) annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2021, an annual meeting of five societies that explores the latest research in several fields, including anatomy, biochemistry and molecular biology, investigative pathology, pharmacology, and physiology.

A portion of the study, which measured cardiovascular responses to different response times, will be published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in the coming months.

Experts say what makes this HIIT workout so different is the short intense training bursts.

“The novel aspect of this study is that the high-intensity interval bursts lasted only 4 seconds, followed by 15 to 30 seconds of rest, which was repeated for a total of 10 minutes,” said Glenn Gaesser, a professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State University.

“Most previous HIIT exercise programs used exercise bursts of 30 seconds to 4 minutes, followed by several minutes of rest, for a total of 20-30 minutes. This study shows that improvements in fitness can occur with much shorter bursts of high-intensity exercise and a much shorter total exercise time,” he added.

Dr. Michelle Botsford, a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist, said the study offers some very practical information for busy people.

“In a world where we are all working with limited time and availability, HIIT provides a way for people to get their heart rate up with a minimal amount of time required to see benefits,” she said.

“The key is in the short bursts of activity. These intervals should truly be “high intensity” and push participants to near maximal effort. When training at this high level of intensity, your heart becomes a lot more efficient at circulating blood and oxygen throughout the body. This results in improved aerobic capacity, also known as VO2max. This VO2max value is an excellent predictor of overall health.”

Gaesser added that short bursts of exercise may help keep people engaged with the workout.

“This is not enough time to really give someone a sense of fatigue or discomfort,” Gaesser said. “Plus, the whole session only requires 10 minutes. Since ‘lack of time’ is the most frequently used excuse people mention for not exercising, well… can’t use that excuse anymore!”

Satiroglu said further studies could take a closer look at differences in sex, include a control group, and perhaps examine effects over a longer period of time, such as 6 months.

Gaesser added that future studies need to look at long-term effectiveness and whether this type of exercise regimen would work in older people, those with chronic diseases, and whether it would be effective for improving cardiometabolic risk markers such as blood pressure, blood lipids, insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers.

“This current study focused mainly on fitness and exercise performance,” he said. “Future studies should also compare this program with more traditional types of aerobic exercise training programs. This program apparently is effective for improving fitness in young adults, but how do the improvements compare with other types of training programs?”