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PYP 086: Martin Gibala on Fitness in 3 Minutes a Week

Martin-GibalaYou 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.

Looking for Transformational Change?

You know how when you discovered plant-based eating, you basically went, “Holy shit, how come the entire healthcare system isn't totally embracing this as one of the most powerful keys to disease prevention and reversal!”?

That's how I feel now about a psychological approach to transformational change called “Memory Reconsolidation.” Few psychologists have heard about it, and when they do hear the radical transformations it can bring about in a very short time, they're often skeptical to the point of disbelief.

But I've added Memory Reconsolidation work to my own coaching, and can attest to its amazing efficacy. So much so, my team and I are studying with the best clinicians and teachers in the world, with the goal of introducing it into our health coaching training.

If you're interested in experiencing the magic of memory reconsolidation coaching with me or a member of my team trained in the process, click the link below to open the form in a new browser tab. Someone will get back to you within 3 business days.

Yes, I'm interested in Memory Reconsolidation Coaching.

You CAN Change Other People!

Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative book of that title.

What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.

Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.

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 🙂

Tip Jar

This podcast is not underwritten by advertising, so I can experience complete editorial autonomy without worrying about pissing off the person paying the bills. Instead, I pay the bills, with your help. It's free for those who can't afford to pay, and supported by those who can. You can contribute to the growth and improvement of the podcast by clicking the “Support on Patreon” or “Donate” buttons on the right to help out.


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,


Thanks to Plant Yourself podcast patrons – Kim Harrison – Lynn McLellan – Brittany Porter – Dominic Marro – Barbara Whitney – Tammy Black – Amy Good – Amanda Hatherly – Mary Jane Wheeler – Ellen Kennelly – Melissa Cobb – Rachel Behrens – Tina Scharf – Tina Ahern – Jen Vilkinofsky – David Byczek – Michele X – Elspeth Feldman – Leah Stolar – Allan Kristensen – Colleen Peck – Michele Landry – Jozina – Sara Durkacs – Kelly Cameron – Janet Selby – Claire Adams – Tom Fronczak – Jeannette Benham – Gila Lacerte – David Donohue – Blair Seibert – Doron Avizov – Gio and Carolyn Argentati – Jodi Friesner – Mischa Rosen – Michael Worobiec – AvIvA Lael – Alicia Lemus – Val Linnemann – Nick Harper – Bandana Chawla – Molly Levine – The Inscrutable Harry R – Susan Laverty the Panda Vegan – Craig Covic – Adam Scharf – Karen Bury – Heather Morgan – Nigel Davies – Marian Blum – Teresa Kopel – Julian Watkins – Brid O'Connell – Shannon Herschman – Linda Ayotte – Holm Hedegaard – Isa Tousignant – Connie Haneline – Erin Greer – Alicia Davis – Heather O'Connor – Carollynne Jensen – Sheri Orlekoski of Plant Powered for Health – Karen Smith – Scott Mirani – Karen and Joe Crabtree – Kirby Burton – Theresa Carrell – Kevin Macaulay – Elizabeth Rothschild – Ann Jesse – Sheryl Dwyer – Jenny Hazelton – Peter W Evans – Dennis Bird – Darby Kelly – Lori Fanney – Linnea Lundquist – Emily Iaconelli – Levi Wallach – Rosamonde McAtee – Dan Pokorney – Stephen Leinin – Patty DeMartino – Mike and Donna Kartz – Deanne Bishop – Bilberry Elf – Marjorie Lewis – Tricia Adams – Nancy Sheldon – Lindsey Bashore – Gunn Marit Hagen – Tracey Gulledge – Lara Hedin – Meg from Mamasezz – Stacey Stokes – Ben Savage – Michael K – David Hughes -Coni Rodgers – Claire England – Sally Robertson – Parham Ganchi – Amy Dailey – Brian Tourville – Mark Jeffrey Johnson – Josie Dempsey – Caryn Schmitt – Pamela Hayden – Emily Perryman – Allison Corbett – Richard Stone – Lauren Vaught of Edible Musings – Erin Hastey – Sean Owens – Sagar Naik – Erika Piedra – Danielle Roberts – Michael Leuchten – Sarah Johnson – Katharine Floyd – Meryl Fury – for your generous support of the podcast.


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