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Six Minutes Per Week

Tara Parker-Pope's health column in the New York Times last month asks, "Can You Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week?" [1]. The article by Gretchen Reynolds quotes Japanese and Canadian experiments performed on rats and college students (hmmm!) that showed significant training effects from brief but intense exercise. Of course, this popularization of the research doesn't go into enough detail to trust the results, or even to interpret them. Do the "fitness" gains apply in general, or only to the specific actions tested? (The rodents were forced to swim while wearing weights; the collegians pedaled furiously on a stationary bicycle.) Are there general cardiovascular benefits, or only improvements to molecular systems and mitochondria in the muscles being stressed? How hard do workouts have to be for various levels of fitness? Further studies are clearly needed.

Bottom line for me: even if I could have all the health benefits of running without actually doing it, I'd still want to get out into the woods for hours and go outrageous distances—if only for the fun and friendships and scenery and stories I get from training and racing.

^z - 2009-07-23