Finding the time to exercise each day is often the first excuse ahead of a long list of reasons not to get out of bed in the morning and get your blood pumping.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has made it possible to get fit fast with workouts lasting 20-30 minutes each. Now, an even shorter version of HIIT, known as Sprint Interval Training, or SIT, aims to get you fit with five-minute sessions, in which you train at maximum, rather than 90% intensity.
But is five minutes enough? We asked three top exercise physiologists whether it’s possible to see results in just five minutes.
“Even one minute of work can destroy you” — Keegan Smith
Keegan Smith is the former trainer of the Sydney Roosters and performance coach who runs his own fitness performance centre near Byron Bay. He has no trouble believing five minutes of intense exercise will get results. “Every five minutes counts. Even one minute of work can destroy you. Don’t believe me? Squat max reps at 50% bodyweight and tell me how your legs are feeling the next day,” he says.
But minutes of exercise won’t be enough to reach your physical potential, he says. “It’s going to take more time to get the mobility, skill and strength that you’re capable of. Once you get a taste for improving your fitness, five minutes will never be enough.”
“If exercise is intense enough you’ll get benefits” — Tony Boutagy
An associate lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast with a PhD in Sports Science, Tony Boutagy is one of Australia’s foremost experts on strength and conditioning. He points to a study from Professor Marty Gibala — regarded as the pioneer of HITT — which found that just three minutes of ‘all-out’ exercise per week on a stationary bike improved muscle metabolism and heart health.
“Five minutes is on the low side for most people to gain long term benefits in muscle strength, size and bone mass,” says Boutagy. “But with a bit of practice, the cardiovascular system and muscle metabolism can be improved in short exercise sessions. Given lack of time is the most cited reason as a barrier for people exercising, finding time-efficient ways to exercise is of paramount importance for anyone. And interval training is one such exercise solution to the lack-of-time problem.”
“Five minutes of exercise is better than nothing, but there’s a dose-response benefit” — Katie Lyndon
An accredited exercise physiologist from Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA), Katie says it’s important to remember that something is better than nothing — even if it’s only 5-10 minutes.
“However, there’s a dose-response benefit,” she says. “Ideally, we should all be aiming for at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week. Increasing the duration of your workout will more effectively improve your cardiovascular fitness, and is essential if you’re training for an endurance event.”