Clean And Jerk: The Fast Fitness Trend

…And get out. Charmaine Gooden works out the fast fitness trend.

“These Ten- to 15-minute mini-workouts that add up to four hours a week are perfect for beginners, de-conditioned persons and those starting fitness later in life,” says Maureen Hagan, vice-president of operations, GoodLife Fitness, “plus it leaves time for socializing.”

Most importantly, it’s hopeful these time-efficient workouts will be useful in tackling the rising problem of age-related obesity in Canada.

But does it work? Over the past 10 years, the medical and fitness communities have been re-evaluating how much exercise is needed on a daily basis. First, they said you only needed 30 minutes a day. Then, they said you didn’t need to do all 30 minutes at once: three 10-minute workouts would do.

In 2009, scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton found that short-term (10 to 15 minutes), high-intensity interval training is a safe alternative to traditional types of long-term, moderate exercise. The secret behind the 10-minute workout is the use of interval and circuit training techniques. Circuit training strings a series of exercises one right after the other, with little or no rest in between. It has long been used by the military to get their cadets in fighting form.

Interval training combines periods of intense pace with periods of more moderate pace. Both training techniques get the heart rate up into target zones quickly and for the duration of the workout. “We have shown that interval training does not have to be ‘all out’ in order to be effective,” says Professor Martin Gibala, chair of McMaster’s department of kinesiology. “Doing eight to 12 one-minute sprints on a standard stationary bike with about one minute of rest in between three times a week works as well in improving muscle as many hours of conventional long-term biking less strenuously.”

Nor does it have to be “all out” to be effective in helping reduce the risk of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, say the researchers. Gibala is currently taking his research a step further by studying the effects of interval training on middle-aged and elderly participants who have previously lived sedentary lifestyles.

“You’re not sacrificing effectiveness by working faster,” says Ted Lawler, a personal trainer for Bodylogix, an online training and nutrition system with products such as gender-specific multi-vitamins and protein powders. “You’re trying to reach your maximum exertion but not total exhaustion — that’s the key.” Currently, the Bodylogix site features a list of exercises that can be done as a 10- to 15-minute circuit program with plans to add shorter three-, five- and 10-minute workouts in the future.

“Lack of time — real or perceived — is one of the main barriers to a successful fitness program,” says Andy Smith, general manger of eMbody Fitness Clubs, which creates personalized programs based on its clients’ goals and time constraints. “The 10-minute trend can really serve as a launch point for a lot of people. It’s manageable and once you get into the habit, it’s easy to extend your time and intensity. Trying something for 10 to 15 minutes opens your horizons to new activities.”

But, as is always true of embarking on a new exercise regime, “shorter high-intensity workouts are not for everyone,” cautions Mike Dickin, certified kinesiologist and president of the Ontario Kinesiology Association. “Consult your health-care provider first and, if deemed medically safe, incorporate this workout into your [regular routine] to see an even better return on that exercise program.”

Exercise … And Make It Quick! At home, you can try these ideas, with a few fitness staples such as stability balls and resistance bands thrown in.

The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough by Sean Foy (

Sean Foy, an exercise physiologist, wrote this book based on the principal that you need four minutes of aerobics, three minutes of resistance exercise, two minutes of core work and one minute of stretching and deep breathing a day. “We looked at different time versions — 15 minutes, 20 minutes — but found people more psychologically apt to try a 10-minute workout,” says Foy.

 Stand Taller~Live Longer by Dr. Steven Weiniger (

Ten minutes a day is sufficient to practise the posture exercises suggested for balancing muscles and joints, relieving back pain and warding off the stooped posture associated with aging. n Try a whole-body vibration exerciser, 10 minutes of which, according to T-Zone Health, promises the equivalent of an hour’s conventional resistance training (you still need your quota of cardio to round out this method, but the bone-mineral density, muscle strength and balance-boosting benefits are worth it).

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