JOURNAL ARTICLE

Three minutes of all-out intermittent exercise per week increases skeletal muscle oxidative capacity and improves cardiometabolic health

Jenna B Gillen, Michael E Percival, Lauren E Skelly, Brian J Martin, Rachel B Tan, Mark A Tarnopolsky, Martin J Gibala
PloS One 2014, 9 (11): e111489
25365337
We investigated whether a training protocol that involved 3 min of intense intermittent exercise per week--within a total training time commitment of 30 min including warm up and cool down--could increase skeletal muscle oxidative capacity and markers of health status. Overweight/obese but otherwise healthy men and women (n = 7 each; age = 29±9 y; BMI = 29.8±2.7 kg/m2) performed 18 training sessions over 6 wk on a cycle ergometer. Each session began with a 2 min warm-up at 50 W, followed by 3×20 s "all-out" sprints against 5.0% body mass (mean power output: ∼450-500 W) interspersed with 2 min of recovery at 50 W, followed by a 3 min cool-down at 50 W. Peak oxygen uptake increased by 12% after training (32.6±4.5 vs. 29.1±4.2 ml/kg/min) and resting mean arterial pressure decreased by 7% (78±10 vs. 83±10 mmHg), with no difference between groups (both p<0.01, main effects for time). Skeletal muscle biopsy samples obtained before and 72 h after training revealed increased maximal activity of citrate synthase and protein content of cytochrome oxidase 4 (p<0.01, main effect), while the maximal activity of β-hydroxy acyl CoA dehydrogenase increased in men only (p<0.05). Continuous glucose monitoring measured under standard dietary conditions before and 48-72 h following training revealed lower 24 h average blood glucose concentration in men following training (5.4±0.6 vs. 5.9±0.5 mmol/L, p<0.05), but not women (5.5±0.4 vs. 5.5±0.6 mmol/L). This was associated with a greater increase in GLUT4 protein content in men compared to women (138% vs. 23%, p<0.05). Short-term interval training using a 10 min protocol that involved only 1 min of hard exercise, 3x/wk, stimulated physiological changes linked to improved health in overweight adults. Despite the small sample size, potential sex-specific adaptations were apparent that warrant further investigation.

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