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The Secret Side Effect of Exercising for Just 60 Seconds, Says Study

Yet another study extols the big benefits of small amounts of exercise.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel

In today's modern exercise era when high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is all the rage, most fitness fanatics are well aware of the fact that you can get pretty fit in a fairly short amount of time. After all, ever since Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, created his groundbreaking "7-Minute Workout" in 2013—and published the science supporting the routine in the American College of Sports Medicine's Health & Fitness Journal—there's been something of an exercise arms race to see how short you can make a workout that still achieves results.

Just last month, research from the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed how going all out for just four seconds at a time on an exercise bike (with resistance) was able to significantly improve cardiovascular fitness and build muscle mass among fit and healthy young adults. Now, a new study published in the European Heart Journal suggests that performing 60 seconds of exercise can go a long way in helping you become a healthier person and stave off the grim effects of disease. Read on for more about this study, and for more great exercise advice, don't miss the Secret Side Effects of Lifting Weights for the First Time, Says Science.

1

The Relationship Between Sitting and Your Health

sitting on floor
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Chances are, you know that leading a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your body, and you've probably heard health experts offer simple tips for off-setting the grim effects of sitting too much. For instance, according to Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., a sports medicine expert at the Mayo Clinic, simply taking a break from sitting "every 30 minutes" or standing up while chatting on the phone can be crucial to your overall health.

What's more, a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine calculated that if you want to essentially erase the harmful effects of sitting—and lower your odds of dying early by 30%—you need to do exactly 3 minutes of "moderate to vigorous" exercise for every hour of the day you spend sitting.

The new study, conducted by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine, examined the same topic and arrived at comparable recommendations. And for more great exercises you can do, see these 5-Minute Exercises for a Flatter Stomach Fast.

2

60 Seconds of Exercise Erases 14 Minutes of Sitting

Senior woman and young woman walking outdoors by sea pier

The new study published in the European Heart Journal indicates that 5 minutes of "moderate-vigorous physical activity" is sufficient for negating an hour of sitting or other sedentary behavior. Relying on data from cardiopulmonary tests from more than 2,000 participants who wore wearables, the team ultimately found that the more people walked and went running compared to the time they sat, the fitter (shocker!) they became.

"By establishing the relationship between different forms of habitual physical activity and detailed fitness measures, we hope that our study will provide important information that can ultimately be used to improve physical fitness and overall health across the life course," study co-author and cardiologist Matthew Nayor, MD, MPH, said in the official release.

3

The Importance of Simply Moving Around

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While sitting too much every day can certainly do a number on your posture and your physique, it can really damage your health in the long-term. When you sit too much every day, the side effects include everything from weight gain to terrible sleep to an even greater risk of heart disease and early death down the road. Not only that, but all of that sedentary behavior can affect your mind, too. A new study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that sitting too much every day diminishes your cognitive function and leaves you much more vulnerable to distraction.

4

Why Scientists Are All For "Exercise Snacking"

woman doing hip exercise at home

Those little bouts of exercise you can do quickly that break up your workday? They add up. According to an emerging body of research, perhaps the easiest way to counter the harmful effects of sitting—which you can realistically do anywhere, given our current circumstances—is to adopt a surging trend in fitness circles known as "exercise snacking," which is defined as doing micro-bouts of exercise throughout your day that don't take much time but on the whole constitute a great workout.

According to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Applied Physiology, performing a two-minute walk—or doing a quick set of exercises such as squats—can offset the effects of a half-hour of sitting.

In the first big study to reveal the benefits of exercise snacking, which was published in 2017 in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the researchers focused on stair-climbing. The research showed that otherwise sedentary women who climbed stairs for just 20 seconds at a time, with rest, boosted their fitness levels by 12% in six weeks. And for more great exercise advice, don't miss The One Major Side Effect of Walking Every Day, According to Science.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more