The Incredible Shrinking Workout

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The 1957 science fiction film The Incredible Shrinking Man showed protagonist Scott Carey’s chilling journey as he became increasingly smaller and smaller in stature. A freak accident exposes Scott to a combination of radiation and insecticide gave him a condition that caused him to continuously shrink throughout the movie, and he eventually became the size of an ant and much smaller.

While this classic was obviously fictional, we have seen something very similar happen to common workout routines over time. We are often looking for the biggest bang for our fitness buck, a currency that is usually measured by minutes.

30 Minutes

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests 30 minutes of moderate activity five times per week. That’s 150 minutes and it’s time that most people say they don’t have. The most common reason people do not exercise is “I don’t have time” according to WebMD. So, let’s think about this… On the one hand, we are told we need to put in two and a half hours of time each week, but on the other, the clear message is that many of us feel that this time just doesn’t exist. That’s a problem. While some have gone through the process of scraping together an extra five to ten minutes here and there by prioritization, organization, and planning to get those 150 minutes into their schedules, there’s also been a movement to reduce the time we work out by dramatically increasing workout efficiency.

15-20 Minutes

High intensity interval training (HIIT), which I’ve written about recently, is all about pushing harder during shorter periods of time to jolt the body out of its comfort zone by alternating sprint and rest periods. HIIT workouts are much shorter than the typical hour spin class or jog in the park. Interval training – with treadmill running, indoor cycling, or body weight training – dramatically cuts workout times from an hour to 15-20 minutes.

7 Minutes

In 2013, a short workout dubbed “The Scientific 7-Minute Workout” became popular. In seven minutes, participants perform a series of body weight exercises, such as pushups and lunges, for 30 seconds each, broken up by 10-second rest periods. The American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal contended that when performed daily, this intensive circuit training led to “maximum results with minimum investment.” Of course, the seven-minute workout was predictably followed by sequels with six- and five-minute workouts.

1 Minute

What can we do in 60 seconds? In 60 seconds, an average adult blinks just 15 times, takes 20 breaths, and can read 300 words – a bit less than you’ve read so far in this blog. So, can’t get too much done in one minute, huh? Well, not so fast. Now, there’s a new, one-minute workout that is showing signs of promise. Scientists recently tested a high-intensity workout consisting of three 20-second intervals of very intense, all-out exercise, followed by short periods of rest. Kinesiology Professor Martin Gibala of McMaster University in Ontario led the research in which a group of 14 sedentary and overweight men and women cycled as hard as they could on stationary bikes for 20 seconds three times, broken up by relaxed, slow pedaling.

Participants underwent a battery of health tests prior to and after completing a six-week regimen consisting of three “one-minute workout” sessions each week. After the six week period, participants’ aerobic endurance capacity went up by 12 percent, their blood pressure levels reduced, and the number and activity of their mitochondria, “the energy powerhouses of cells, so more mitochondria mean better endurance and fitness” increased. Dr. Gilaba concludes that, “The point is that time constraints shouldn’t keep anyone from exercise.”

Towards the end of the The Incredible Shrinking Man, the diminutive protagonist Scott knew he would continue to shrink but would not become nothingness because “there is no zero.” Certainly there is no zero for working out, and it will be interesting to see how close popular workouts get as they inevitably continue to shrink.

We'd love to hear from you. How has your experience been with any of these short workouts? Comment below or on our Facebook page at facebook.com/flytefitness, or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Jeremy Greenberg

Co-Founder & CEO

Flyte Fitness