A few workouts and tips

2 minute workout

Researchers at Birmingham and Liverpool John Moores Universities have been looking at the effects of SIT (sprint interval training) on health and, in a report published in the Journal of Physiology in February, showed that as few as four 30 second sprints on indoor bikes, interspersed with 4.5 minutes recovery, can produce significant iimprovements in health

  • Pros: Studies suggest that SIT training can prevent blood vessel disease, hypertension, diabetes and most of the other ageing and obesity related chronic diseases. Indeed, three weekly sessions of SIT over 6 weeks produced comparable results to 5 weekly sessions of 40-60 minutes traditional, steady paced endurance training on indoor bikes.
  • Cons: Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University say that due to the very high workload of the sprints in SIT workouts, the method is only really suitable for young, fit people.

3 minute workout

Devised by Jamie Timmons, professor of systems biology at Loughborough University, this is based on HIIT (high intensity interval training), an approach that involves getting on an exercise bike, warming up by doing gentle cycling for a couple of minutes, then going flat out for 20 seconds. A couple of minutes gentle cycling to catch your breath, then another 20 seconds at full speed. Another couple of minutes gentle cycling, then a final 20 seconds flat our. Repeat three times a week so that you perform a total of nine twenty second intervals (if you prefer it can be six 30 second intervals) and that’s it.

  • Pros: In clinical trials, Professor Timmons has shown his approach helps to improve insulin sensitivity – important for keeping blood sugar or glucose stable – by up to 24 per cent in two weeks. As a result, it can help to offset Type 2 diabetes  – it will also keep you trim. Other studies on a similiar HIIT approach published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found a 35% improvement in insulin sensitivity after only two weeks. Studies have also shown that HIIT engages 80 per cent of the body’s muscles of the body, compared to up to 40 per cent during gentle jogging or cycling. pilot study currently ongoing in the Sports Centre at the University of Birmingham has also shown that previously sedentary individuals in the age-range of 25-60 also find HIIT much more enjoyable than endurance training and report it has a more positive effect on mood and feelings of well-being.
  • Cons: It’s tough. If you haven’t pushed yourself when exercising for a while, it is better to start with a more moderate introduction to interval training such as the 10 minute workout below.

4 minute workout

Last month Norwegian researchers published a study in the online journal PLoS One that showed a single four minute run at a hard pace performed three times a week was enough to certain measures of boost health and fitness.

  • Pros: At the end of the 10-week Norwegian trial, subjects had improved their endurance capacity by 10 per cent or more, lowered their blood pressure and had better blood sugar control. A single four minute run at 90 per cent maximum effort was as effective as 4 x 4 minute intervals with a three minute slow walk recovery, they found.
  • Cons: Few of the subjects lost much body fat. “This is not a weight-loss program,” Dr Arnt Erik Tjonna, the researcher from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Rather, he said, it offers “a kick-start for better fitness” when time is short.

10 minute workout

Realizing the intense effort of a very short duration HIIT workout is too much for some, sports scientists at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, put their ‘gentler’ interval theory to the by asking subjects to attempt a modified version involving a minute of effort (at about 90 per cent maximum heart rate) followed by a minute of easy recovery repeated ten times in succession – a total of 20 minutes per session.

  • Pros: In the McMaster studies, subjects displayed remarkable improvements in overall health and fitness after several weeks. After a ten-minute session there were changes within muscle cells similar to those that occurred after 90 minutes of moderate bike riding. Perhaps the most impressive results were the enhanced functioning of blood vessels and heart among the people with established cardiovascular disease. “Because the effort is so brief,” they said. “It appears the heart is insulated from the intensity of the exercise.”
  • Cons: It’s not a quick fix and even this modified form is hard work. Short, intense workouts of any kind are not advisable for someone with no background of regular activity.

Tips on how to avoid a stitch

Do change your breathing pattern. A side stitch is your body’s way of telling you to make more room for breathing. To alleviate it when running or walking, slow down and steady your breathing. If you get a stitch on the right side, exhale forcefully as your left foot hits the ground. Do the opposite if you get a stitch on the left side.

Don’t run too soon after meals. Scientists aren’t sure what causes a stitch but one theory is that it is caused by irritation of the parietal peritoneum – layers of membrane inside the abdominal cavity. It is thought that a full stomach worsens this friction. Allow 2-4 hours before exercising after a big meal.

Do strengthen your abdominal muscles. During exercise our internal organs bounce up and down, pulling on the diaphragm muscles. If this tugging occurs when the diaphragm moves upwards – or when we breathe out – the strain is so great that it causes a stitch.