Yes, we know that exercise is good for us, but trying to spend an hour in the gym between a 40-hour work week, family commitments and a social life, can seem almost impossible. That's where high intensity exercise or high intensity interval training (or HIIT) comes in.
HIIT workouts have become increasingly popular in recent years. If you've never heard the term before, it implies a series of short bursts of very intense exercise designed to make your heart break for short periods of rest.
With HIIT, athletes can achieve the same health benefits that can be expected from more traditional exercises, in half the time.
2 minutes of high intensity exercise equal to 30 minutes of moderate activity
Now, researchers have studied the mitochondrial responses of gym goers and found that just 2 minutes (yes, you read that right - 2 minutes) of HIIT can produce responses similar to a solid half hour of moderate intensity aerobic exercise (cycling, basketball and brisk walks).
Their results have been published in the American Journal of Physiology.
Researchers recruited eight young adult volunteers to participate in three exercise sessions of different intensities, calculating exactly how much energy they expended in each session and measuring the mitochondrial changes that occurred during training.
To do this, they compared a muscle biopsy taken from the volunteer's thigh before training, immediately after training, and three hours after training.
The moderate intensity training involved 30 minutes of continuous cycling with a maximum effort of 50 percent. The high-intensity interval training consisted of five 4-minute cycling sessions with a maximum effort of 75 percent with a 1-minute rest between each burst.
And the most vigorous workout, sprint cycling, involved four 30-second cycling sessions with a 100 percent maximum effort and a 4.5-minute rest period between each lap.
To avoid “tainting” the results, the exercise sessions were spread over a period of weeks with seven days or more of rest between each workout.
Analyzing the results, the researchers noted that hydrogen peroxide (JH2O2.) Levels changed after exercise, reading lower immediately after exercise and higher three hours later.
The opposite occurred with high-resolution mitochondrial respirometry (JO2), which read louder immediately after exercise and had decreased three hours later.
Too many reactive oxygen species can damage cells, but at levels detected after workouts, it can promote cellular responses that help rather than hinder metabolic function, the study authors say.
Additionally, there did not appear to be a significant difference in mitochondrial response between each of the three workouts, suggesting that a 2-minute workout at extremely high intensity can produce the same results as half an hour of resistance. Good news for busy bees.
"This suggests that exercise can be prescribed according to individual preferences while generating similar signals that confer beneficial metabolic adaptations," the study authors write. "These findings have important implications for improving our understanding of how exercise can be used to improve metabolic health in the general population."
But if you want your exercise to boost your brain power, you may want to keep running.

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