How Interval Training Can Get You Fitter Faster : Shots - Health News In his new book, researcher Martin Gibala explains that workouts with periods of intense exercise aren't just for the super-fit. They also help make the most of limited workout time.
NPR logo

Does 1-Minute Interval Training Work? We Ask The Guy Who Tested It

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Does 1-Minute Interval Training Work? We Ask The Guy Who Tested It

Does 1-Minute Interval Training Work? We Ask The Guy Who Tested It

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


A lot of us have heard of the seven-minute workout. That's the whole idea of interval training. But what about the one-minute workout? Yes, that is the title of a new book by exercise scientist Martin Gibala. He says one minute a day is all you need to get in shape. NPR health editor Nancy Shute has reviewed the book and is here to talk about it. Hi, Nancy.


MCEVERS: OK, so really, a one-minute workout?

SHUTE: Kelly, I've got to be honest with you. It's not one minute.


SHUTE: It's really 10 minutes.

MCEVERS: Oh. Is that 10 one-minute workouts, or what?

SHUTE: (Laughter) No. It's actually - there's a minute of really hard work divided up into three 20-second segments. And then you've got a warm-up and a cool-down and little breaks in between.

MCEVERS: So what are you actually doing, though, in these 10 minutes that makes it better than a moderate, 45-minute run or swim? I mean, are we doing, like, tons and tons of pushups and jumping jacks?

SHUTE: Well, most often, it's tested with something like running or riding an exercise bike or something like that, where it really gets your heart rate up. It's an aerobic thing.

MCEVERS: But you're doing it really, really fast, I guess.

SHUTE: Yeah. And what it is - you're spiking up for those 20 seconds, right? You're really pushing yourself to, like, 80 percent of your maximum heart rate.

MCEVERS: Uh-huh.

SHUTE: It's not fun. I mean, this is not a fun workout for that high-intensity portion. But it really gets your heart, your muscles and everything working. And you are going to get fitness benefits from that.

MCEVERS: Who is Martin Gibala? I mean, how does he know all this?

SHUTE: He's an exercise scientist at McMaster University in Canada who's been studying this for years with lots of different populations, with athletes, with people in heart rehab. And he and other researchers have found that this really works in all different kinds of people. He points out that this is really a lot of the way that children play, right? They stop. They start. They sprint. They jump. And, you know, you can get more work and effort than trying to go straight-out really hard all the time.

MCEVERS: I mean, this is not a new thing, right?

SHUTE: Oh, yeah. You know, I mean, there's a long history of competitive athletes doing this. And back in the 1950s, the Royal Canadian Air Force had their five-basic-exercises thing that got really popular. And that was basically interval training, which is what this is. It's just taken years for the science to catch up and compare the different kinds of exercise and say, yeah, this really does work.

MCEVERS: I was going to say, why has it taken so long for it to catch on?

SHUTE: I think because it's hard. When you're doing that one-minute of high intensity, it is not fun. It is not a walk in the park. And even Gibala says, you know, I don't do this every day. I want to take my dog for a walk. I want to go for a nice, leisurely bike ride. But since so many of us are so busy, and it's so hard to fit in exercise, it's really great to know that this is a good option, and it works.

MCEVERS: Are there any risks to doing this kind of work out? I mean, are there certain people who just shouldn't do high-intensity interval training?

SHUTE: Yeah. I mean, certainly, if you have heart problems or things like that, you should definitely check with your doctor. And for people who haven't been doing any exercise at all, you know, it's hard to go 80 percent of your heart rate. You know, so you have to be careful with it. But they say that even if you're just walking and you boosted up a little bit every now and then, that's going to help, too.

MCEVERS: Yeah. So what do people need to know here, then? I mean, this is just a good thing to do?

SHUTE: Yeah. And the good news is that both forms of exercise work. Interval training works if you want to do that. A longer, slower exercise works. They're both good things. And they're both so much better than no exercise at all.

MCEVERS: That's NPR health editor Nancy Shute. Thank you so much.

SHUTE: You're welcome.


Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.