Do you say you haven’t got time for exercise? Well, could you manage around 20 minutes a week? If so, you can make a major contribution to your health, fitness and longevity. That’s the conclusion of scientists who have been investigating High Intensity Training (HIT). In fact, HIT goes back to the work of Arthur Jones in the 1970s (and even to the work of the long-ignored Dr Gustav Zander in the late 19th century) but the latest discoveries set a whole new standard. Provided you’re not in the fifth of the population who are ‘non-responders’ then, according to Jamie Timmons, professor of ageing biology at Birmingham University, you can get by with just three minutes of HIT a week (plus a little gentle exercise to warm up first).
Usually it’s all done on an exercise bike but the principle can be adapted for other activities. The regime is two minutes of gentle exercise to warm up followed by 20 seconds as fast as you can go, followed by another two minutes of gentle exercise and another 20 seconds and finally a third bout. Do that three times a week and that’s it. Four-fifths of people see worthwhile improvements in their insulin sensitivity (reducing the likelihood of diabetes) as well as their aerobic fitness and for the 15 per cent who are ‘super-responders’ the improvements are substantial.
But what interests me especially is the impact on happiness. It’s well established that exercise improves the level of several ‘happy chemicals’ in the blood but, as I reported in my book How To Be Happier, it’s always been thought the exercise needed to be vigorous and fairly prolonged. I’m going to give this new HIT protocol a try and I’ll let you know how I get on.