You ever wake up and decide not to exercise in the morning because you're running just a bit late?
When you add up the preparation, warmup, workout, cooldown, shower, breakfast, commute, and all the rest, you realize that you've missed your window.
This happens to me a lot.
And I always tell myself that I'll find time before lunch, or in the evening, for that workout. After all, regular exercise is one of the most important predictors of longevity and long-term vitality, as well as daily mood and achievement.
But somehow the noon and evening workouts almost never happen. I've just eaten. I'm tired. I've got more work to do than I had planned.
So I keep coming back to the morning as the ideal window of opportunity. When I get in a good sweat before 9am, I feel better and perform better all day.
What's the MED of Exercise?
There's a concept in medicine that's been coopted by the fitness community: MED, or “minimum effective dose.”
As in, what's the leasts amount and type of exercise I need to do to benefit in a significant way?
According to the US government, the cardio MED is 150 minutes per week of brisk walking, or 75 minutes per week of jogging.
And I would never discourage someone from aiming for those targets.
But if those targets feel unattainable due to lack of time, that raises the question: “Can a smaller MED of cardio exercise still be worth it?”
Today's podcast guest, Martin Gibala of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, has been studying that question in his lab for a decade. And his answer is a great piece of news for folks like me who may have only 10-15 minutes in which to get in that daily workout.
I first found his research in a Time magazine article, “Introducing the One-Minute Workout,” by Alexandra Sifferlin.
That number – one minute – caught my eye. It reminded me of the worst nutritional hype about acai berries and noni juice and other “miracle” cures – promises of perfection with practically zero effort.
It reminded me of the ten thousand dollar contraption that Tony Robbins used to recommend in in-flight magazines.
In short, I was highly skeptical. So I retreated into the research. In this case, the original published article from the November 2014 PLOS One journal: “Three Minutes of All-Out Intermittent Exercise per Week Increases Skeletal Muscle Oxidative Capacity and Improves Cardiometabolic Health.”
That article – along with references to Gibala's decade of exploration of the topic – convinced me that he was onto something. So I got him on the phone to explain it all to me and you.
In our conversation, we cover:
- the problems with current exercise recommendations
- definition and examples of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- meaningful outcome measures to judge exercise effectiveness
- holistic and reductionist research paradigms in exercise physiology
- what Roger Bannister discovered while training for the 4-minute mile as a busy medical student
- the future of medicine and exercise science: “metabolomics”
- the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness
- how to get HIIT into your life
- the myth of the big difference between aerobic and anaerobic muscle exertion
- the importance of literally getting out of one's comfort zone
- why exercise for weight loss is silly
- your new fitness best friend: stairs
Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.
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New Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight
Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.
It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂
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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
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