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Okay, okay. We know a minute of exercise doesn’t constitute a major workout, but if you push the intensity enough, you can reap the same benefits of a much longer sweat session. McMaster University researchers recently discovered that one minute of intense exercise delivers similar cardiovascular benefits as 45 minutes of continuous, less strenuous activity. Study participants completed three, 20-second sprints on a stationary bike, with two minutes of easy riding in between sets. What does that mean for you? A doable way to score serious body benefits. You’ll still want to include a variety of cardio workouts in your regular fitness plan, but if you’re short on time, or want to tack a quick cardio session onto a team practice, have a go at the following options.
Sprint at the Track
This one might be a no-brainer if you have a smartwatch. Set your timer for 20 seconds, and sprint as fast as you can. Slow to a jog or walk for two minutes, and then sprint again. Repeat for a total of three sprints, and cool down with an easy walk.
Add Sprints to Your Runs
This is a fun way to spice up medium to long runs. Pick a stretch of road or a field that’s flat for your sprints. After five to 10 minutes of warm-up running, include the 5-minute interval session toward the start of your run. Finish by jogging easily for the duration of your workout.
Sprint in the Pool
Water can make things a bit more tricky, since swimming involves much more resistance than a run (and even a spin bike, depending on the setting). Try sprinting a length of the pool, and then swim easily back. Note: Most American pools are 25 yards in length, though Olympic-sized versions are 50 yards. Only sprint as far as you can, if training in the latter.
Sprint with Strength
Certain full-body exercises can turn into a cardio workout when you boost the intensity enough—and Burpees fit the bill. (Plus they’re fun for kids to say.) The move works virtually every muscle (including the heart), and increases power with the help of a plyometric jump. Try it for 20-second sets with two minutes of walking in between.
Here’s how to do it:
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and squat down, placing your hands on the floor in front of you. Jump your feet back so that you are in a plank position. Next:
Beginners: From the plank, jump your feet forward toward your hands (into the squat position), and when your feet land, jump up toward the ceiling.
Experienced exercisers: From the plank, perform a push-up. Next, jump toward your hands and jump up. Advanced? Perform a tuck jump, bringing knees toward the chest.
Lara Rosenbaum is an award-winning journalist and wellness expert whose work has appeared in SELF, Shape, Men’s Health, Runner’s World, Men’s Journal, Prevention, Yoga Journal and many other publications. She has held positions at several magazines and brands, including Women’s Health, where she was the founding fitness editor, and at Fitbit. Lara is also a former elite athlete, having traveled the world as a member of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team.