FITNESS: Three Minutes to Better Health | Great Health Guide
FITNESS: Three Minutes to Better Health

FITNESS: Three Minutes to Better Health

‘Three Minutes to Better Health’ by Kusal Goonewardena published in the upcoming Great Health Guide (July 2016). Do you find yourself making excuses that you don’t have the time to exercise? HIIT exercises incorporate short bursts of intense training which target core muscles and burn fat. These exercises can be completed in just three minutes which saves a lot of time.
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FITNESS: Three Minutes to Better Health

written by Kusal Goonewardena

I continue to be amazed at how small changes can have a big positive impact on people’s lives. One that keeps confounding the doubters is the results we are seeing from shorter, high intensity workouts.

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. But like most health professionals, I have been surprised at how short the high intensity training intervals can be while still having an impact. 

Studies by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology 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. In 2015, ABC TVs Catalyst program also explored short, high intensity workouts, with strong results including improved aerobic capacity, weight loss, a lower resting heart rate and more. 

You may also be familiar with Dr Michael Moseley’s personal experiences with 20-second bursts on an exercise bike, which helped him control diabetes. 

To keep my athletes in tune, I developed a three minute workout, which works the whole body and is explored in my book 3 Minute Workouts. I have used this workout for over a year on myself, with my physiotherapy patients and with elite athletes and have been pleasantly surprised at the results. 

My personal experience and that of many patients, is that they look and feel fitter and stronger and often lose a few kilos.

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If you love running or swimming for an hour, keep going. But if you’re time-strapped, or just looking for that extra boost, the good news is that it takes less time than you think.

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

The key is high intensity:

Unless you play a demanding sport, people rarely push out of their physical comfort zone. High intensity exercise forces the body from its comfort zone and that is when you see real benefits.

How do we reach high intensity?

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. However, 85% is one step away from going absolutely flat out. Going 100% can push you too far and create injuries.

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 as discussed in the book, along with some important notes on technique.

Anyone can do these exercises because you’re going at 85% of your own capacity. For example, many women find push-ups difficult. If it’s too hard I recommend doing them from your knees first. If you can only do a few that’s fine, it’s your baseline. Over time you will be able to do more and eventually you may be able to stretch your whole body out and do push ups the hard way.

In summary:

  • Research shows short duration, high intensity exercise can be more effective than longer, moderate exercise

  • Aim for 85% of your capacity – going at 100% risks injury

  • Do your research and see a medical professional if you have any questions or concerns.

Author of this article:
Kusal Goonewardena is an experienced physiotherapist who consults via his clinic, Elite Akademy. He believes passionately that physiotherapy patients should see positive results in three sessions or less. Kusal has authored books including: Low Back Pain – 30 Days to Pain Free; 3 Minute Workouts; and co-authored Natural Healing: Quiet and Calm, all currently available via Wilkinson Publishing. When not consulting, Kusal is a lecturer, author, consultant and mentor to thousands of physiotherapy students around the world and can be contacted on his website.

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