We’re not even halfway through January. It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s windy. And, if you’re like me, your willpower is starting to fade. Those earnest resolutions pledged less than two weeks ago in a fervor of optimism no longer seem so attainable. Cutting out sugar? Abstaining from alcohol? Running every single day? In this weather, forget it. As far as I’m concerned, all winter is good for is hibernating and marinating in a heavy broth of cake and booze.
But, don’t despair, there’s a bevy of research that shows even small changes in behavior can improve our health. For example, short bursts of exercise (think 10 minutes or less) can be as beneficial as longer workout sessions.
First, scientists at McMaster University in Ontario (which should really offer a degree in MC-ing) found that 10 one-minute high-intensity intervals (the all-out, can’t-talk, want-to-die afterward kind) had the same metabolic and musculature benefits as a much longer endurance session. Next, courtesy of The New York Times, we have the 7-minute workout – a set of 12 high-intensity resistance-training moves like jumping jacks, lunges, and push-ups that was shown to lead to fat loss, improved aerobic fitness, and an increase in metabolism.
Now, researchers in Norway have trimmed the golden window down to just four minutes; trust the Scandinavians to be at the height of efficiency. The scientists showed that a single 4-minute burst of sprinting three times a week resulted in significant improvements in cardiovascular health. That’s right, four minutes, once a day, three days a week. That’s only 12 minutes a week for better health! Granted, this might not be the most effective way to lose a substantial amount of weight, but it will improve your blood pressure and oxygen uptake, which is one of the most crucial measurements of overall aerobic fitness and has been linked to better heart health and decreased mortality.
Intense exercise not your thing? Walking faster can result in significant health benefits as well. Upping your pace by even a minute a mile can reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and even death. That’s right, the faster you walk, the less likely you are to die. And, while staying alive might not be at the top of your list of things to do in 2014, I’d say everything else you’re planning on doing pretty much depends on it.
And, finally, even sex has been shown to have some fitness-boosting benefits. Researchers at Quebec University in Montreal released a study showing that each session in the sack burns an average of 3-4 calories a minute and has the same cardiovascular demands as a game of doubles tennis – a hell of a euphemism if I ever heard of one. That means that one 30-minute love session can burn as many calories as that glass of Franzia.
So, even if you don’t stick with your other resolutions, I think having more sex is something we can all get on board with for 2014.