woman running listening to music through earbuds

Fitness in 10 Minutes (with a banging beat to boost motivation)

By Tracey Walton wlr team
Published: September 14 2020

High intensity interval training (HIIT) should be a boon to those who can’t find the time to get in the recommended minimum of 150 minutes exercise a week.

You can get a great workout in less than 10 minutes if you use high intensity intervals.

The ‘One-Minute Workout’

So called because you only actually work hard (as hard as you possibly can) for 1 minute – split into 20 second bursts.

Here’s how it works:

You can do any aerobic activity – e.g. walking, jogging, cycling or swimming. The important thing is that you spend 3, 20-second intervals going as hard and as fats as you can. Here’s an example starting off with a walk:

  1. Walk at a comfortable pace for 2 minutes
  2. Run as fast as you can for 20 seconds
  3. Walk at a comfortable pace for 2 minutes
  4. Run as fast as you can for 20 seconds
  5. Walk at a comfortable pace for 2 minutes
  6. Run as fast as you can for 20 seconds
  7. Walk at a comfortable pace for 2 minutes

Total Time: 9 minutes

Doing this gets you a workout that research shows1 is just as good for your overall health and fitness as a 30-minute aerobic session. The key is to go all out to your max during those 20 second sprints.

The problem is that people tend to find find the 20-second maximum effort spurts pretty unpleasant and uncomfortable.

(Big issue – we need to enjoy whatever exercise we’re doing in order to do it regularly.)

Upbeat Music to the Rescue

New research demonstrates that upbeat music can make a rigorous workout seem less tough. Even for people who are not very active.

The study carried out at Brunel University, london examined how the right music can help less-active people get more out of their workout - and enjoy it more.

Study author Matthew Stork said,

"While HIIT is time-efficient and can elicit meaningful health benefits among adults who are insufficiently active, one major drawback is that people may find it to be unpleasant. As a result, this has the potential to discourage continued participation."

The Study

Stork worked with Professor Costas Karageorghis, a world-renowned researcher who studies the effects music has on sport and exercise.

Stork gathered a panel of British adults to rate the motivational qualities of 16 fast-tempo songs. The three songs with the highest motivational ratings were used for the study.

"Music is typically used as a dissociative strategy. This means that it can draw your attention away from the body's physiological responses to exercise such as increased heart rate or sore muscles," says Stork.

"But with high-intensity exercise, it seems that music is most effective when it has a fast tempo and is highly motivational."

A group of 24 participants completed the 'one-minute workout' - three 20-second all-out sprints, a total of 60 seconds of hard work.

A short rest separated the sprints, for a total exercise period of 10 minutes including a warm-up and cool-down.

Participants completed these HIIT sessions under three different conditions--with motivational music, no audio or a podcast that was devoid of music.


Those listening to the motivational music reported greater enjoyment of HIIT.

They also exhibited elevated heart rates and peak power in the session with music compared to the no-audio and podcast sessions.

"The more I look into this, the more I am surprised," said Stork.

"We believed that motivational music would help people enjoy the exercise more, but we were surprised about the elevated heart rate. That was a novel finding."

Elevated heart rates are important because it show that people were working harder.

Stork believes the elevated heart rates may be explained by a phenomenon called 'entrainment.'

"Humans have an innate tendency to alter the frequency of their biological rhythms toward that of musical rhythms. In this case, the fast-tempo music may have increased people's heart rate during the exercise. It's incredible how powerful music can be."

Stork's research indicates that for people who are deemed insufficiently active, music can not only help them work harder physically during HIIT but it can also help them enjoy HIIT more.

Because motivational music has the power to enhance people's HIIT workouts, it may ultimately give people an extra boost to try HIIT again in the future.

"Music can be a practical strategy to help insufficiently active people get more out of their HIIT workouts and may even encourage continued participation."

What You Can Do

Why not give this a try for yourself. Find some upbeat tracks that make you feel good and get your toes tapping. Go for a 10-minute walk and include 3, 20-second bursts of moving as fast as you can. You’ll feel fab when you’ve done it!

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References and Resources

  1. Gillen JB, Percival ME, Skelly LE, Martin BJ, Tan RB, Tarnopolsky MA, et al. (2014) Three Minutes of All-Out Intermittent Exercise per Week Increases Skeletal Muscle Oxidative Capacity and Improves Cardiometabolic Health. PLoS ONE 9(11): e111489. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0111489
  2. Matthew J.Stork, Costas I.Karageorghis, Kathleen A., Martin Ginis. Let’s Go: Psychological, psychophysical, and physiological effects of music during sprint interval exercise Psychology of Sport and Exercise https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2019.101547

For a more detail on the 'One-Minute Workout' and HIIT, see this interview with expert Dr Martin Gibala

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