Six-Minute Workout Miracle

My calm, loving Labrador Retriever, Halo, gets up and runs for a few seconds like a mad dog at full speed around the backyard several times a week with no encouragement or prompting. Seeing her glowing example a few years ago, I suspected there must be some strange health benefit to mad-dog sprinting. I took it up.

Then I came across a woman’s blog who said that her life transformed dramatically after doing high-intensity interval training. So I doubled my efforts on my treadmill. But I didn’t run at full capacity. Rookie mistake.

And I sprinted on my toes, intending to conserve my knees.  It turns out that sprinting on your toes for a year or two gives you Morton’s neuromas. Live and learn.

Here’s a spell-binding, science-based video that shows how to do this entire thing right, and why it’s magic for your mitochondria and brain health.

Professor David Bishop (Victoria University) took muscle biopsies of a test group (high intensity) and a control group (endurance aerobic exercise) and found up to a 30% increase in the test groups’s muscle fiber’s ability to use oxygen to produce energy after 4 weeks of high-intensity interval training. The control group’s muscle biopsies showed NO improvement.

I wonder if this has any relevance to Eliud Kipchoge’s phenomenal running career: The first (and only) man to run the marathon distance in less than two hours was a sprinter in the early years of his career. (Did he increase his mitochondria’s ability to use oxygen more than the endurance runners who likely spent their entire careers in distance training?)

Reading the comments below the video, I noticed that it disappointed several people to learn that the workout Anja Taylor did took “30 minutes” instead of the six minutes set forth in the video’s title. So I left a comment to this effect:

If you rest 4.5 minutes between sprints, as Anja Taylor did, it takes 20 minutes per workout session (not 30).

She did four 30-second sprints with four 4.5 minute rests after each sprint, totaling a workout time of 20 minutes per session. She did three sessions per week for four months.

So each session took 20 minutes. But you don’t have to rest as long as she did. If you rest 1.5 minutes between 30 second sprints, the total workout time per session is 6 minutes, as advertised. To me, resting a minute and a half after sprinting 30 seconds is more than adequate.

The question from a scientific perspective would be whether the resting time between sprints would change the outcome for the mitochondria. Intuitively, I suspect a shorter resting time adds work stress to the mitochondria, causing greater positive adaptation and a more favorable outcome in terms of mitochondrial capacity to use oxygen. But that’s a guess. I could be wrong.

Anyway, you will really enjoy this video. Especially if you’re a writer working at a desk all day.

Summertime love to you and yours,

Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD

PS. Please check with your doctor before starting this workout routine. But give it a go if she/he says it’s OK for you.

11 thoughts on “Six-Minute Workout Miracle

  1. micahlegare1

    Good topic, I’ve read in several places that HIIT and HIIE (high intensity intermittent exercise) are more effective than steady state aerobic training for cardiovascular improvements and weight loss. And with less gym time like you stated. I’m not huge on cardio, but I am tempted to try it just to test the results. Thanks for sharing!

    • You’re welcome. I’ve got NO natural talent for aerobics/ cardio, but there’s quite a bit of evidence now in the literature that it helps prevent dementia, right up there with ketosis and adequate sleep (without apnea), so I’ve been running on a treadmill for years now and have developed multiple Morton’s neuromas from running on my toes for a few years. (It was a dumb fad. Live and learn.) My latest thing is exercise with oxygen. I bought a standard “Live O2” device and have been at it for a couple of weeks now. I’ve noticed increased clarity of mind and overall increased energy, but I sleep fewer hours per night. The jury is still out, but it’s looking like the short-term mental effects are noticeable and positive.
      Stay motivated!

  2. Morton’s neuroma! I have/had that. I got injections in my left foot a year ago because I couldn’t even walk on it. It was HORRIBLE. I have had trouble with them my entire adult life and I contribute it to working long hours and many years in retail running back and forth across hard floors of a bookstore in college. I also do HIIT and usually do my intervals at about 2 minutes walking briskly, then 30 seconds of balls to the wall running. So far I haven’t noticed any tremendous benefit other than being able to manage my breathing better and maybe a little bit off the waistline. But it’s still pretty fun anyway. Running and running technique is a lot harder than people think.

    • For me, running without getting a minor injury is really a challenge now that I’m over the hill. When I was in my late 20’s I could run for an hour every day for a year and never come up lame. Too bad youth is wasted on the young, right?
      There’s plenty of evidence now in the literature that aerobics and weight training keep your brain healthy into old age. That’s my angle anymore. Keeping those last three neurons firing. 😉

  3. It’s been known for a long time that distributed practice is more effective than massed practice, so it makes sense that short-interval, high-intensity training would work the way the video says it does. Because “high intensity” means something different to each person’s body, it’s an exercise regimen that demands a highly personalized approach, but as long as the kind of exercise that’s done is tailored to those needs (just as she found that biking was a better choice to start with than running uphill), theoretically, just about anybody can benefit.

    I had been doing basic distributed practice with the physical therapy exercises I was given, but now I’m going to try to adapt them to this level of precision. Thanks for sharing this video just when I needed it! 🙂

    BTW, I’ve been down the Morton’s neuroma road. No fun at all. 😦

    • Being a retired pathologist, I’ve seen probably several hundred Morton’s neuromas over the years, always in a jar of formalin and then under the microscope. It’s interesting now to experience these things from the patient’s perspective. They bothered me a lot more before a podiatrist took some x-rays and told me what they were. Fortunately, they’re not in the painful stages yet. I’m wearing the little bumpy central things in my shoes now and hoping they won’t progress and need alcohol injection or surgery.

      I’m glad this video came to you at the right time. That’s awesome. Yes, “high intensity” is a relative term that requires accurate tailoring to the individual. My biggest dilemma with exercise is trying to avoid minor injuries. I tend to over-do everything. 🙂

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