Want to Get Fit?One of the measurements of effective exercise is increased oxygen uptake in the body and brain. Your brain requires about 20% of the oxygen you breath in. When you get more oxygen, your brain works better. Your best bet for increased oxygen? Physical exercise. Until recently, we have all commonly understood that great fitness is a product of many hours per week of rigorous training. New research may change the way we think about “effective” exercise.

A research team from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim recently released the results from a study of the effects of different exercise patterns on 24 men who were healthy except for being inactive and overweight. The results seem to run counter to what we would all expect.

The men were divided into two groups and the study lasted 10 weeks. One group exercised intensely (where their heart rates got up to 90% of capacity) for 16 minutes, 3 times a week. Those 16-minute workouts were broken into 4-minute intervals that were separated by 3 minutes of recovery. The other group exercised intensely 3 times a week, for just 4 minutes at a time, for a weekly total of only 12 minutes.

The results experienced by the participants were surprisingly similar. After the training, the group that exercised intensely for only 12 minutes a week experienced a 10% increase in their maximal oxygen uptake. The group that exercised intensely for 16 minutes 3 times a week increased its maximal oxygen uptake by 13%. The group that exercised more put in 400% more time at high intensity but only got about 30% more benefit! And while both groups saw decreases in their blood pressure, the first group’s blood pressures actually showed greater decreases than their longer-exercising counterparts.

There is a lot more research to be done before significant changes in exercise recommendations can be made. This study was performed on a small group of people from one segment of the population. However, it does point to the fact that even short periods of high intensity exercise can make a significant difference in the health of your brain and body. That should encourage all of us – who among us can’t carve out 12 minutes a week to boost our brains?

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