New research has found that getting fit could prevent and treat depression - and you can do it in less than 5 minutes!
We all know that regular exercise can help us live longer, healthier lives, but did you know that it could also guard against depression? New research has discovered that those with the lowest levels of cardiovascular fitness are 75% more likely to develop depression than those with the highest. But it’s never too late: the researchers also discovered that the symptoms of people diagnosed with clinical depression improved significantly when they were put on a ‘moderately strenuous’ exercise programme.
And here’s the really good news: research from McMaster University in Ontario has found that as little as 60 seconds of intensive exercise can have the same physiological benefits as 45 minutes of continuous exercise.
Exercise scientists led by Martin Gibala, chair of kinesiology at McMaster University examined the changing fitness levels and insulin sensitivity of young men over the course of 3 months.
In the study, 25 unfit young men who did no exercise were divided into 3 groups. The first group did not change their workout routines. The second took up a typical endurance-style workout by pedalling for 45 minutes on a stationary bike at a moderate pace. The final group took up interval training, beginning with a two-minute warm up followed by 20 seconds of vigorous pedalling, alternating 2 minutes of slow pedalling with 20 seconds of sprint cycling two more times, totalling in 60 seconds of strenuous activity.
The result showed that the group exercising for 1 minute had increased their fitness and improved blood sugar levels as much as the group exercising for 45 minutes.
?I think there is good evidence that shows you can see comparable benefits despite the fact that intervals require less total exercise and reduced time commitment,? said Gibala.
Shorter workouts, such as the popular HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) have been proven to be as effective, if not more so, as longer workouts.
The great benefits of these snappy workouts is that short bursts means we are capable of pushing our intensity level up, so we train harder, knowing that it is for a shorter period of time. These bursts can be as short as 20 seconds to produce an effect known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), whereby your body has to burn a higher rate of calories. This elevated rate can remain for up to 10 hours after working out. And it can increase by as much as 35 extra calories an hour, which means you could be burning an extra 350 calories throughout the day just by doing a 4 minute workout. Sounds good to us!
The other bonus of these short workouts is that since there are so easily achievable, they are more likely to become a habit. You know that no matter how busy your day is you will still be able to squeeze in that workout. This leads to a positive spiral as you start to see results, you will have more energy and feel fitter.
Read on for more short workouts that make a difference to your fitness and waistline…
Marching on the spot is perfect if you are an exercise beginner as it’s low impact. You’ll still boost your metabolic rate and is great for improving your balance, hip flexibility, core control and overall fitness levels.
Workout: March on the spot; keep your back perfectly straight and cross your arms over your chest. As you march, bring your knee to hip height if possible. The key is to keep those tummy muscles pulled in; by having your arms crossed over your chest, you work your legs and abdominals a bit harder, and this is great for improving your balance and core stability.
Try 20 seconds of high-knee marching, 10 seconds of low-knee marching with arms relaxed at your sides and repeat this non-stop eight times (which should be your complete four minutes).
This is great for any fitness level, as it is also low impact, and it naturally works you according to your fitness ability.
The waist and arm toner is a great multitasker as it does lots of things all at once. Not only are you working out and burning calories, you are also engaging and shaping your waist muscles, as well as sculpting and melting away those bingo wings.
Workout: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and ensure your knees are slightly bent. Use small hand weights or water bottles, if you want extra resistance. Now punch your arms back and forth quickly, aiming to go from side to side. The key thing is not to let your hips move, as this way you’ll be toning deep inside those waist muscles.
Do 20 seconds of punching arms back and forth, then 10 seconds of simply marching it out slowly, arms relaxed. Repeat a total of eight times, non-stop.
This 4 minute workout is more challenging so ideal for regular exercisers.
It fires up your metabolism and gets you burning calories/ At the same time, it tones your legs and abs, and lifts and sculpts your bottom.
Workout: Standing with your feet hip-width apart, come into a squat. Do this by bending through your knees, as if you are about to sit on a chair, with arms bent and by your sides, making sure you don’t allow your knees to shoot over your toes.
From here, jump up high and jump to one side (you could have a small cushion in the way to jump over, if you want to up the challenge). Land softly back into your squat, then jump back the other way. Try 20 seconds of squat jumps from side to side, then 10 seconds of simply marching it out very slowly. Repeat a total of eight times, non stop.
Cycling sprints are perfect for sculpting a leaner lower half, as well as engaging the core muscles. It’s easier to time your work/rest periods on a stationary exercise bike, but it will also work on an outdoor cycle.
Workout: Cycle at 100% intensity for 20 seconds, then lift your feet to rest for 10. Repeat for 4 minutes.
You may know this circuit training favourite by a different name, but it’s an easy and surprisingly fun exercise that will get the heart pumping. Begin in a sprinter’s start position. Place arms shoulder-width apart, and bring one leg upwards towards your chest.
Workout: Keeping your hands on the ground, jump to switch your legs. Quickly touch each toe down in front. Do not rest your whole foot on the ground. Continue this as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for 10. Repeat for 4 minutes.
Any personal fitness trainer will tell you that long, low lunges are the quickest route to a pert posterior. Typical lunges consist of stepping forward one leg at a time and bending your knee until it’s parallel with the floor, but for tabata we need to add a little more intensity.
Workout: Up the ante by jumping from one lunge to the next. Remember to keep legs springy, and watch out for objects behind you. Jump lunge your fastest for 20 seconds, then rest for 10. Repeat for 4 minutes.
We can’t deny there’s nothing more tedious than swimming lengths, regardless of how fantastic a workout it might be. But with the structure of tabata, hour-long swim sessions are a thing of the past.
Workout: If you can, find a lane to yourself. Then in the stroke you most enjoy, swim as hard as you can for 20 seconds, counting the mississippis in your head. Rest for 10 seconds and then go again.
Nothing sculpts the upper legs better than squats, and with the added intensity of tabata you’ll have buns of steel in no time. This exercise is so easy you can do it at home in your living room. Just avoid jumping under low ceilings!
Workout: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and sit back in to a squat, bending your knees, until you are more than parallel with the floor. Jump upwards, swinging your arms for exta thrust if you like. Once you’ve landed, return to the squat position and jump again. Repeat for 20 seconds as hard as you can, break for 10, then start again.
Who says getting fit can’t be fun? Skipping is an enjoyable way to boost your cardio and your coordination – plus it’s the most inexpensive piece of gym equipment you can invest in. Be warned: you may want to perfect your technique before you start your tabata workout!
Workout: Start gently to build the momentum up. Once you are comfortable, skip as hard as you can for 20 seconds. Try not to stop completely during your rest as you may not have time to build back up within 10 seconds. What kind of skip you do is completely up to you. You could try feet together, high knees or the Rocky-style boxer shuffle.
Why not take your tabata workout outside and make the most of the fresh autumn air before it gets too cold! Paddle sprints are fantastically fun and great for the upper arms and core muscles. You can get a similar effect on the rowing machine in the gym, although it may be more difficult to get the intensity you need.
Workout: Build up some momentum with a gentle rowing action, then really gun it for 20 seconds. Think about burying the whole surface of the paddle under the water and pull as hard as you can. Rest for 10 seconds and then start again. It might be worth investing in some paddling gloves to avoid blisters between your fingers!
When it comes to easy-to-do tabata exercises, the stability ball is your best friend. Set it up in the living room, and crunch out a 4 minute workout as soon as you get home from work.
Workout: Chest Press. You’ll need two 50g dumbbells for this one. Lean backwards on to the stability ball so it supports your neck and shoulders. Lay flat like a table, thrusting your hips up with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Take most of the weight in your feet. Start with the dumbbells at your chest, press upwards as fast as you can for 20 seconds repeatedly. Break for 10, and repeat for 4 minutes.
Great balance is a must for this tabata exercise. The last thing you want is to be tripping over your exercise box! Start with feet firmly planted shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent ready for take-off.
Workout: Jump up on to the box and back down as fast as you can for 20 seconds. Break for 10, and then repeat. Remember to bend your knees slightly to take the impact, and use your arms to create momentum. If you’ve got a history of bad joints, it’s probably best to give this one a miss.