Can three minutes of exercise a day really make a difference?

Just three minutes each day can make a tangible different to health and fitness. But there is a catch.

According to studies by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, such exercise would need to be short and very high-intensity. However, it could make a bigger impact than longer forms of exercise.

The study found positive results from four minutes of vigorous exercise just three times a week.

Participants in these studies showed a 50% improvement in their aerobic capacities after 12 weeks.

Other benefits include increased stamina, and reduced chances of heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

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ABC TVs Catalyst program also recently explored short, high intensity workouts, with similarly strong results.

We have known for some time that 15 minutes of interval training three times a week will provide better results than jogging on a treadmill for an hour every day. However the research shows that even smaller high intensity training intervals have a bigger impact than first thought.

So how can people benefit from high intensity training?

I have developed the following three minute workout.

But before anyone commits to any high intensity regime, it’s important to know that your system is strong enough to take it. Anyone with a heart condition should check with their general practitioner first.

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Three minutes a day

The exercises in the 3 minute workout require no equipment and can be done anywhere.

While three minutes may sound small, it is not easy. A three minute high intensity workout is harder than a 30-minute walk.

My three minute workout involves:

  • 30 seconds of Shadow Boxing
  • 30 seconds of Push Ups
  • 30 seconds of Squat Jumps
  • 30 seconds of High Knee Running (on the spot)
  • 30 seconds of Star Jumps
  • 30 seconds of Sit Ups
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Using these exercises gives you a balanced workout, impacting the core, upper and lower body, and the aerobic and anaerobic systems. There are variations possible, which is discussed in the book, along with some important notes on technique.

The key is high intensity:

Many people exercise within a comfort zone, which means the body gets used to regular exercise levels. Unless you play a demanding sport, people rarely push out of their physical comfort zone.

Naturally, any lower intensity exercise is still wonderful but high intensity is a powerful complement, because it forces the body from its comfort zone and that is when you see real benefits.

How do we reach high intensity?

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Participants need to train at 85% of their capacity for high intensity (the Norwegian research shows the heart rate needs to reach minimum 85% capacity for the benefits to show). At 85% you are sufficiently pushing yourself out of the comfort zone. Your heart rate is up, you are breathing heavily, which allows you to improve fitness faster than moderate exercise.

How do we know we are going at 85%?

Think of 85% as one step away from going absolutely flat out – you still have all the benefits of high intensity training with lower injury risk.

The workout has many benefits for over 60s, but is not recommended if you have a heart condition.

If you don’t have a heart condition, or any joint or musculoskeletal injuries, then it’s never too late to discover the power of high intensity training. A health check from your general practitioner is recommended so you can be confident in your new training regime.

How do you feel about high-intensity workouts? Would you switch to a shorter, harder exercise routine if it had better results?