Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
15 Jul

5 Ways to Get the Most Bang for Your Workout Buck

Late last year, I introduced the idea of the minimum effective dose: the lowest dose to produce a desired outcome. Whether it’s calorie intake, exercise, sunlight, carbohydrates, or work habits, we often think we need much more than we actually do to get the results we want. Why crank out those extra reps, put in those extra few hours, choke down another chicken breast if they won’t make you any more prepared to handle what life dishes out? Failing to heed the minimum effective dose costs you money, time, and mental real estate. Figuring out the minimum effective dose for the various inputs shaping our days can make us more efficient and open up the rest of our life to do the things we actually want to do.

What, exactly, are the minimum effective doses for exercise? How little do I have to train to stay and/or get fit? And what kind of effects can we expect to get from said minimal doses?

The answers to those questions will depend on who’s asking, but we have a few specific examples of people maintaining, improving, or radically transforming their fitness levels with minimum effective doses of exercise. Let’s take a look.

1. To maintain cardiovascular fitness.

Cardiovascular de-conditioning during the off season is a big issue in cardiovascular-intensive sports like soccer. The last thing many athletes want to do after a grueling season is to resume even more-grueling training on a regular basis. Understandable, but then they come back a couple months later and suck wind for a few weeks until they’ve regained their endurance. What if there were a quick and dirty, efficient way to train and maintain your endurance in the off-season — or any season, for the average person who doesn’t want to work out more than he has to work out?

In 2014, semi-pro soccer players were placed on one of two off-season training regimens:

High intensity interval training, once a week.

High intensity interval training, once every two weeks.

Both HIIT regimens used identical training loads, and it was fairly brutal: five 4-minute high intensity rounds at 87-97% of maximum heart rate. No mention of rest intervals, but I’d imagine they were at least several minutes long to allow them to recover sufficiently. Whether they did it every week or every two weeks, the soccer players maintained their VO2max. There was no cardiovascular advantage to doing it every week. Those biweekly sessions would have been miserable, but they were over pretty quickly, leaving the soccer players plenty of time to work on sport-specific skills and other forms of training (or, you know, reading, going out to dinner with friends and family, hiking, watching good movies, etc). In fact, those players running HIIT every other week also trained a couple hours every week, mostly strength training; the every week group trained over five additional hours a week.

2. To improve muscle endurance and aerobic capacity.

We all (think we) know how to improve aerobic fitness: cardio. Whatever that means. But cardio, at least how most people envision it, takes forever and is pretty darn boring. What if you could improve your aerobic fitness while also improving your muscular endurance — the amount of work your muscles can endure, the amount of time you can keep your force output high — in a fraction of the time?

Four times a week for four weeks, adult females performed a single four-minute Tabata protocol with a single exercise. Exercise choices included burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, or squat thrusts. Another group ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes at 85% max heart rate.

After four weeks, their fitness levels were evaluated. While the treadmill group enjoyed a 7% improvement in aerobic capacity, the interval group improved theirs by 8%. And when it came to muscle endurance, the interval group saw massive gains:

  • Leg extensions: +40%
  • Chest press: +207%
  • Situps: +64%
  • Pushups: +135%
  • Back extensions: +75%

Most importantly, the women found the Tabata exercise protocols more enjoyable and sustainable than the aerobic exercise protocol. Their “intention to engage” in exercise was higher than in the aerobic group.

All that in just 16 minutes of work a week.

3. To improve overall physical fitness.

What does “physical fitness” mean to you? In my book, it’s a combination of strength, strength-endurance, and aerobic capacity. The ability to go hard, go fast, and go long. A pair of researchers came up with a “7 minute workout” designed to improve these physical capacities in as little time as possible. The exercises are basic, but effective (as is always the case, right?). Each one is to be performed for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between exercises.

  1. Jumping jacks
  2. Wall sits
  3. Pushups
  4. Crunches
  5. Step-ups
  6. Squats
  7. Dips
  8. Planks
  9. Running in place with high knees
  10. Lunges
  11. Pushups with rotation
  12. Side planks

Solid list of movements, eh? This year, researchers tested the 7 minute workout. A cohort of men and women were divided into three groups. One group did a 7-minute circuit training workout three times a week, another group did a 14-minute circuit training workout three times a week, and the third group was sedentary. The 14-minute and 7-minute groups performed the same circuit exercises; the 14-minute group just did them twice.

Both exercising groups enjoyed improvements in muscular endurance. The males in both groups also got stronger, while the females improved their aerobic capacity. Training for 14 minutes (which is fairly minimal to begin with) wasn’t necessary to obtain results.

4. To increase metabolic health.

You’ve probably heard me discuss mitochondrial biogenesis: the creation of entirely new mitochondria. This is important because mitochondria are the power plants of the cell and ultimately the body. They metabolize fuel and convert it into useable energy. The more mitochondria you have, and the better they work, the more fat and glucose you’re going to utilize. And since energy overload is toxic to our cells and predictive of many disease states (diabetes, inflammatory conditions, etc) having more mitochondria on hand will keep you healthier for longer. How much exercise do you actually have to do to promote mitochondrial biogenesis?

Not a huge amount, but you will probably have to sprint. In the short term, a workout consisting of four 30-second all-out cycling sprints activated mitochondrial biogenesis in the skeletal muscle of human subjects in one study. Shorter sprints work, too. In fact, a program consisting of three sets of five 4-second (yes, four seconds!) treadmill sprints with 20 seconds of rest in between each sprint, done three times per week for four weeks up-regulated molecular signaling associated with mitochondrial biogenesis. You could do that during a commercial break.

I’ve also talked about the importance of maintaining good insulin sensitivity and how exercise can hep in that regard. Turns out that it doesn’t take much to see a positive effect. Research indicates that four to six 30 second bouts of all-out sprint cycling with four minutes of rest done three times a week improves insulin sensitivity in already-active and sedentary young adults. Measurements were taken 72 hours post training, just to be sure that the improved insulin sensitivity wasn’t a result of acute exercise effects. That’s 6-8 minutes a week of actual work for massive improvements.

5. To control blood sugar.

Visit most fitness communities online and walking gets short shrift. Walking isn’t exercise, they’ll say. It’s a poor substitute for “real” movement that invariably involves grunting, heavy weights, gallons of milk, and chalk. Not to take away from the heavy lifting, because that stuff is indispensable. But walking isn’t useless; it’s essential. There’s even evidence that a tiny amount of walking at a moderate pace — 15 minutes’ worth, to be exact — is enough to blunt the postprandial spike in glucose that can occur in people and lead to real problems down the line. Make that walking “brisk” and you can cut the necessary volume down to a single 21 minute bout while enjoying beneficial effects on postprandial insulin.

So don’t let anyone tell you those short post-meal strolls aren’t helping. They are. They represent a minimal yet highly effective dose of movement that improves your ability to handle blood sugar spikes after meals and regulate your fasting blood sugar throughout the day. More intense, higher volume training certainly improves blood sugar control, too, but a short walk after meals is the simplest, easiest, and most minimal.

Let’s briefly review:

  • To maintain your cardiovascular fitness, do 5 4-minute intense intervals once every two weeks.
  • To improve your conditioning and muscular endurance, do standard protocol Tabata burpees (or mountain climbers or any of the other exercises listed) a few times a week.
  • To become more fit overall, a 7 minute continuous bodyweight workout is sufficient.
  • To increase insulin sensitivity, go all out on the bike four times for 30 seconds with four minutes of rest, three times a week.
  • To grow more mitochondria, five 4-second all-out sprints with 20 seconds of rest, three times a week might be enough.
  • To reduce blood sugar spikes and improve fasting blood sugar, walk for 15 minutes after each meal.

Furthermore, many of these protocols will have crossover effects with each other. You don’t have to — and probably shouldn’t — do all of them, because then you’ve just constructed a high volume training regimen.

Not so daunting, is it?

What are your minimal effective doses for exercise? How little have you gotten away with while enjoying improved health, fitness, and vitality? I’m always looking for ways to cut back on training while retaining the effects, so have at it down below!

Thanks for reading, everyone.

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You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. I’m 32 weeks pregnant so exercise is becoming more challenging, but I think I’ll try out the 7 minute workout after my walk today!

    Erica wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • Focus on upper body strength right now. Get those arms and shoulders and back ready for carrying the kid and more laundry..

      tom LI wrote on July 15th, 2015
  2. Fantastic article, thanks Mark! Perfectly timed for me! I’m trying to return to regular workouts 7 months after having a baby by c-section so both time and energy are limited! Thank you!

    Rhona wrote on July 15th, 2015
  3. Mark, you and I must be sharing the same wavelength. I have been working on my own MED workout to help with improving my cardio, strength, and flexibility for my martial arts training. Would love other’s input:

    Warmup:
    -30 seconds of bouncing in a fighting stance (works calves) followed by 30 seconds of shadow boxing – repeat 5 times

    Dynamic stretches:
    -10 leg swings to the front, back, and side per leg
    -10 arm circles to the front and back

    Workout:
    -1 set of squats or lunges
    -1 set of side lunges going down as far as I can to each side
    -1 set of pushups
    -1 set of pullups
    -1 plank

    I typically do this before a long bout of training (2-4 hours worth) so that’s why it doesn’t have more sets or else I wouldn’t make it through the actual training.

    Jacob wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • My opinion

      Isn’t 2-4 hours of training martial arts enough strenuous without your pre-workout? Adding the pre-workout might be redundant…

      Wish you smiling training days,
      B

      Borut B. wrote on July 15th, 2015
      • Normally I would agree with you, but the training revolves more around the techniques so typically it is pretty low intensity. I would equate it to a mixture of slow and medium cardio, depending on what we’re doing.

        Jacob wrote on July 15th, 2015
        • I would do those high intensity exercises on a separate day in full and not as you described. You are targeting a different type of muscle fibres and body processes by high intensity and low intensity martial arts techniques.
          Unless you are training martial arts every single day. Then your teacher knows which protocol is best to strengthen your body and how to incorporate this routine into your protocol.

          When I was practicing martial arts we had technique’s trainings and strength trainings on separate days.

          Borut B. wrote on July 15th, 2015
  4. Hi, Mark,

    Thank you. Would you be so kind to say a few words what regime could work as you are stating doing all of them would make the workout protocol too strenous and ineffective.

    Is my idea below on the protocol OK?
    week 1
    MON 5x 4-minutes intervals
    TUE 30-sec bike sprints
    WED Tabata
    THU 4-sec all-out sprints
    FRI Tabata
    SAT 30-sec bike sprints
    SUN rest day

    week 2
    MON 7-minute workout
    TUE 4-sec all-out sprints
    WED Tabata
    THU 30-sec bike sprints
    FRI Tabata
    SAT 4-sec all-out sprints
    SUN rest day

    Walking daily.

    Can I add sprint intervals to Tabata day instead of doing them on a separate day?

    Wish you all happy workouts, :)
    Borut

    Borut B. wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • Ok, I’m a little confused. What’s the difference between the Tabatas and the Interval training? It looks about the same, but one is a couple of times a week and the other is once every two weeks?

      Julie wrote on July 15th, 2015
      • Interval:
        5 times of 4 minutes of high intensity

        Tabata:
        Only one 4 minutes exercise, Tabata style, 20 seconds max intensity, then 10 seconds rest, you have 8 20 seconds rounds to complete

        Borut B. wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • That seems borderline insane. Just because the separate studies used different exercises, as Mark points out, does not mean you have to nor should you try to use all of them. Tabat IS a type of HIIT, as are the cycle sprints, and the 7-minute circuit is suggested to be done 3 X per week. And the 5X4minute all out is for maintaining cardiovascular fitness when you aren’t able to do other cardio, not necessarily to build it. Why not something like this?

      MON Sprints or Tabata
      TUE 7-minute circuit
      WED Sprints or Tabata
      THU 4-sec all-out sprints
      FRI 7-minute circuit
      SAT Sprints or Tabata
      SUN rest day

      Or better yet, just follow the Primal Blueprint and do HIIT once a week, and the 7-minute circuit a couple times a week, and walk, play, and have fun the rest of the time.

      Eric from Minneapolis wrote on April 18th, 2016
  5. I don’t much care about my health but I enjoy lifting weights, and I like to look good, so I do as much weight lifting as I can given my age.

    I understand that some people do not enjoy exercising but if you’re the kind of person who does enjoy it, it’s hard to wrap your mind around the concept of minimizing time spent exercising. To me it’s like suggesting that I minimize the time I spend having sex.

    elmer wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • I understand where you’re coming from and would agree on the general assumption. However some people, like myself, have specific exercise/training goals that greatly benefit from a MED approach.

      I spend anywhere from 4-8 hours a week training in various martial arts. On top of my standard obligations (work, kids, chores, etc), this leaves me with very little time and energy to devote to a full weightlifting regimen. However, I still want to gain muscle. A MED approach to strength training makes sense in my case.

      And who would want to minimize sex!? I could already see that discussion between 2 spouses…. 😉

      Jacob wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • Amen. I may be a freak, but I actually enjoy exercising, look forward to it, and can’t comprehend those who dread it. I get it if you’re not in shape, but once there, other then real fatique and time issues, what’s to complain about?

      tom LI wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • I have always hated exercise. Walking yes, but anything more vigorous used to give me throbbing headaches as a child, so I was put off at an early age. Team sports never worked for me, due to above and being short sighted but not diagnosed, so being hit by the ball was a constant danger!

      I no longer get throbbing headaches, thanks to a good chiro then Alexander technique. And I have glasses for the eyesight!

      Now at 52, I’ve been doing Mark’s set of exercises for 15 minutes twice a week and loving that it’s short! I like the 7 minute idea even better! Need to do the sprints tho…

      HB wrote on July 17th, 2015
  6. A year ago I did a one-week personal challenge to gain muscle mass, strength and endurance without a gym. I worked out each of the seven days but mostly did super short high intensity (HIIT) exercises right before meals. I randomly picked usually one exercise before a meal. I would do a few all out sprints or 100 push-ups as fast as possible or a total of 30 pullups or 50 mytatic crunches. Usually one of those exercises. Once a day I’d also do a longer workout of either a long run or lift heavy boulders for an hour. I was astonished by the results. I gained muscle, strength and endurance and felt incredible! Of course, my diet was fantastic as well.

    Chad Zuber wrote on July 15th, 2015
  7. is this a maintenance protocol or could someone who still has weight to lose follow these guidelines as well? Thanks

    Kate wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • I believe the general consensus around here is that exercise plays a pretty limited role in weight loss. That was certainly my experience. Focusing seriously on nutrition yielded much greater results than the months I spent sweating it out on the elliptical.

      Still, if you’re interested in working your way towards a serious calorie deficit, these exercises- being short and focused- don’t sound very effective for achieving that state.

      Jeff wrote on July 15th, 2015
      • Yep, my experience too. I lost 40 pounds doing nothing more than Paleo while beached with a screwed-up knee. My “exercise” consisted of hobbling to the bathroom a few times a day. In addition to losing weight, I streamlined my body amazingly solely by eliminating grain products. Bottom line: Exercise for muscle tone and fitness but diet for weight loss.

        Shary wrote on July 15th, 2015
        • I think Mark’s Primal Blueprint excercises from the book are all we need. It is very effective and minimal.
          Pushups
          Pullups
          Squats
          Planks
          Sprint once every 7-10 days
          20-30 minute workouts twice a week.

          It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
          For an hour and 15 minutes a week, you will be in fantastic shape.

          Nocona wrote on July 15th, 2015
      • In my own experience working out didn’t seem to have a gigantic impact on weight loss when I was really overweight (50ish pounds). However, it became essential to deal with the last 15 or so when I plateaued. I actually really upped the carbs at that point too.

        Joshua Hansen wrote on July 16th, 2015
  8. This is a perfectly timed newsletter! I really wanted to get back into bodyweight exercise after a few minor lifting injuries but was floundering with what to do until I found the 12 minute athlete app and it’s basically everything mentioned here rolled into one. It really kicks my butt and has me gasping for air! So now I don’t feel like I neglected anything and I can feel great about my choice. I think I’ll throw in some sprints and that should be it. Thanks Mark!

    Jason wrote on July 15th, 2015
  9. I really need to try tabata. I like intervals. Well, I don’t like them. But you know what I mean.

    Marcia wrote on July 15th, 2015
  10. Great stuff Mark.

    It’s stuff most people know; you should sprint, you should take walks, you should do some form of resistance training, etc.

    But to see the acute benefits of each is informative.

    Raza wrote on July 15th, 2015
  11. I enjoy being active and pushing myself to find out what I can do…at the same time, I realize it’s important to be well-rounded & to use functional movements in all directions. This is a fairly typical weekly template for me:

    Monday – strength
    front squats or weighted lunges
    pullups
    push ups
    chops

    Tuesday
    agility, balance, coordination work using ladder &/or cone drills, bosu &/or swiss ball exercises, cable exercises, kettlebell exercises &/or angled barbell exercises. I usually set up some kind of metabolic conditioning circuit picking a few drills/exercises, rest as long as needed & go for 4- 6 rounds.

    Wednesday
    Usually walk to the track, do some sprints then either walk or jog lightly home

    Thursday – light activities
    yoga, stretching, a walk, etc.

    Friday – strength training
    hang cleans or snatches
    deadlift
    dumbbell or inverted rows
    chest or shoulder press
    planks

    Weekend – Rest days — may do activities such as gardening, hiking, swimming, biking, etc.

    Alison wrote on July 15th, 2015
  12. Am 65, female, both knees replaced in January. Am doing great. Would someone offer advice on training that avoids sprints or any running and any kneeling. Both are not helpful for long life of implants. Am enjoying weight training but love being efficient.

    Elizabeth wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • Here’s a quote from one of Mark’s blog posts:

      When people hear “sprinting,” they think of 100 meter flat sprints on the track. Those are effective, sure, but they’re not the only way you can reap the benefits of sprint training. You can run hills (easier on the joints and more intense overall). You can cycle (easier on the joints and proven to work in dozens of sprinting studies). You can do it in the pool (either running in water or swimming). You can row or use the elliptical. Heck, if you loathe “cardio” of any kind you can probably get sprint-esque effects from lifting weights really quickly (think doing a set of 20 back squats or something similar). Upper body interval training works for general fitness in elderly hip replacement patients, for example. There’s something for everyone, which means there are almost no excuses not to sprint.

      Read more: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/15-reasons-to-sprint-more-this-year/#ixzz3fydwbN1f

      Hope this helps.

      Myra wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • Core-strengthening modalities (yoga, Tai Chi, etc.) might be a possibility since you can usually modify or avoid poses that are hard on the knees. Check with your doctor. Many hospitals offer fitness classes that might be appropriate for you.

      If I’d had both knees replaced six months ago, I would simply walk every day. Walking is an excellent exercise that’s easy on the joints. Start out slowly on level ground, then gradually work up to longer walks, incorporating some hilly terrain if possible.

      Knee replacements usually need to be replaced again at some point, regardless. Keeping your weight at the low end of what’s considered normal for your height and build will help them last longer.

      Shary wrote on July 15th, 2015
      • I have knee issues too from years of terrible running form. No replacements but some major restrictions on what I can tolerate. I do “sprint” intervals with kettlebell swings & I believe they are actually helping my knees! Just bend the knees as far as you feel comfortable, start with light weight (you don’t even really need a kettlebell– a dumbbell will do) & listen to your body. I hope that helps!

        Paleo-curious wrote on July 15th, 2015
  13. thanks for the article, mark! it really helps a lot! however, one thing i have an issue with–which may be a personal thing to work on–is getting into the mindset that a little goes a long way. i know it doesn’t help to follow the more mainstream trainers, exercise gurus, and gym rats who constantly stress that you need to be in the gym for 2 hours every day to get the fabulous results quicker, but sometimes it’s hard to avoid that, and, honestly, who doesn’t want to envy those amazing bodies and keep them in your news feed for motivation? 😉

    anyway, my point is, do you have any articles or helpful tips to keep as a reminder that these shorter workouts are beneficial, if not better, than a 2 hour workout? are there any certain podcasts you would recommend listening to?

    i have also been curious as to what you would suggest for “playtime” for those of us who live in states with all 4 seasons–especially a winter that lasts about 7 months out of the year. there are times that it gets ridiculously cold out that there’s no way i could bare to go for a walk outside and the gyms are typically packed. would you have any suggestions other than being couped up at home to do a workout? please keep in mind a minimal budget if suggestions are to go elsewhere.

    thank you in advance for any tips/suggestions from anyone! :)

    Sheila wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • I generally detest malls, but the one thing they’re good for is walking in inclement weather. My hoop dance group even used to meet in an underused mall in the winter for playtime!

      Paleo-curious wrote on July 15th, 2015
  14. Sprint a little, lift a little, walk a lot. That’s pretty much the conclusion I’ve come to over the past couple years myself.

    Wondering how horseback riding stands in for walking? I ride about 45 minutes most days at moderate intensity (jumping and dressage, not noodling down the trail) and hope it’s a good stand-in, because I have trouble finding time for long walks as well.

    Nika wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • Walking frequently gets sold short by the gym junkies, but it’s an excellent way to gently work almost every muscle in the body, particularly as one gets older. Done outdoors (versus on a treadmill), it’s never boring. You don’t need any special equipment, and it can be done in all types of weather and in almost any locale.

      That said, I think horseback riding is probably a good stand-in for walking since the rider doesn’t just sit there like a lump on a pickle. There is plenty of subtle body motion going on.

      Shary wrote on July 15th, 2015
      • AMEN

        Texman wrote on July 15th, 2015
      • Lump on a pickle, I love it! Gonna’ use that one.

        Nika wrote on July 16th, 2015
      • Or, if you want to go in for a couple pieces of inexpensive equipment, purchase a set of walking or hiking sticks.

        After years of intermittent (meaning fits and starts, not interval) exercise of various sorts, and two not-so-good knees, hips and lower back, I’ve finally found pole-hiking to be the most effective, everyday, all-around best exercise to stay in shape.

        I do desert mountain hiking (because that is where I live and I can start the moment I step out my door). People who live in urban or suburban areas can do pole-hiking (or Nordic walking–very popular in Europe) as well, but the equipment (pole-walking sticks) they use for that are of a slightly different type, designed specifically for use on asphalt and concrete.

        Either way, what you get is a minimal impact lower AND upper body workout (around 75/25 to 65/35 depending on the terrain or lack of it, and how much you rely on your arms for propulsion). A further benefit is that, especially for those with troublesome lower joints, your arms are taking a lot of the stress, and you’re much less likely to have a nasty accident if you should trip or stumble, or one of your limbs gives out.

        Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordic_walking for starters. Lots more info on this if you surf around.

        Scott B wrote on July 17th, 2015
  15. Sprint a little, walk a lot and just do things around the house that need to be done and make them into an exercise….like when you need to vacuum, muscle all the furniture around, mow and work in the yard, clean stuff up and move it around.
    Wake up with a combination of pushups and planks.

    Texman wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • …does…not…compute…

      What are these strange concepts? Vacuum? Mow?

      Gary wrote on July 15th, 2015
      • :)

        Texman wrote on July 15th, 2015
  16. A 4 second all-out sprint???? How? I’ve barely taken 4 strides?

    tom LI wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • Actually 4 seconds is long enough to get at least 10-12 full strides. Your legs go super fast when you are sprinting. I think you’d take more than one stride per second even walking.

      Clay wrote on July 16th, 2015
      • Really? Do the legs go super-fast when sprinting?

        I’m not doing world class sprints. Im average height, avg stride better than avg shape..super fast legs….lol!

        Friend and I are scheduled to test the 4 second “all-out” Sprint tomorrow.

        tom LI wrote on July 16th, 2015
  17. Great article Mark! What would you say is the MED for hypertrophy?

    jon wrote on July 15th, 2015
  18. I’m off to the gym to do some bike Tabatas and rower sprints…

    If I’m honest, it was what I had planned anyway for tonight, but I shall enjoy it all the more for knowing I can do a short session and then sit in the sauna for longer, and all because I’m doing good for myself!

    Gary wrote on July 15th, 2015
  19. A good book for those who want to pursue this topic in a little more in-depth is “Body by Science” by John Little and Doug McGuff. It gives you the science behind why less is often more when you are trying to get fit.

    Damien Gray wrote on July 15th, 2015
  20. I’m puzzled & disappointed that only the men achieved strength gains in number 3. Do you have any idea why women only saw aerobic gains?

    Paleo-curious wrote on July 15th, 2015
  21. Back in the old days of MDA Mark would answer people’s questions here on the comments board. I know you’re busy these days with you’re empire growing as large as it has but maybe you could employ one or two certified primal folks to read all the comments every day and offer responses. It’s frustrating that we have questions to things in your awesome posts and never get answers anymore. Don’t leave us hangin’ Mark!!

    ntrojnky wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • Hi, ntrojnky,

      I read every comment that’s posted. I try to do the same for every email that’s sent to me as well, and answer as many as I can. I’ll admit, these days the volume is a challenge, so I’m forced to be selective. You may know, I often answer both comments and emails in my Dear Mark series that I publish every Monday. I literally can’t answer every comment and email (there’s not enough time in the day, and only one of me!), but if the question is relevant to a large number of people, there’s a good chance of it being answered there. Thanks for reading, and know I’m reading and taking notes!

      Grok on!

      Mark Sisson wrote on July 15th, 2015
  22. This is a great post! So many people fail to start because they hate ‘exercise’ and think it is too time consuming. This will be a great resource to get people moving!

    primal_chiro wrote on July 15th, 2015
  23. I really like bodyweight training, for the simple fact that it has proved the best way to keep my exercise discipline. I have been applying this ‘minimalist’ routine with great results for quite a while.

    I probably don’t invest more than 10 minutes a day, and I look and feel great. It’s all about consistency and small gains adding up, and bodyweight training is conducive to that. There is always floor around.
    My routine is:
    Push ups
    Squats
    Handstand pushups (the variation with my legs on a chair, not the full type)
    Pull ups

    Edie wrote on July 15th, 2015
  24. I found Paleo through Art DeVany’s book and MDA has really helped keep me going. The results have been great – thanks so much for your website.

    My DeVany workout is 3X per week, starting with 6 minutes of stationary bike done asymmetrically (one minute full out-low resistance, one minute slow with high resistance alternating). Then to the leg machines and after that some upper body. The weights are also asymmetric with 15,8,4 reps and increasing resistance. Moving quickly without rest makes it pretty aerobic and the whole thing takes 20-30 minutes. I go at it before lunch and a little hungry.

    In addition, lots of fun play sports whenever possible.

    TM wrote on July 15th, 2015
  25. I just finished eating a big ass salad. I think I’ll go for a 15 minute walk.

    David wrote on July 15th, 2015
  26. Anything is better than nothing of course, but I’m surprised to see Mark discussing the idea of minimum effective doses of movement, as opposed to continuing to advocate for lots of movement spread throughout the day, week, month, year, life.

    pdiddy wrote on July 15th, 2015
    • I see a distinction here, pdiddy, between getting the most out of your dedicated workouts (e.g. time at the gym), and daily movement, general activity, play, and so on.

      Mark Sisson wrote on July 15th, 2015
      • good point. not an either/or situation!

        pdiddy wrote on July 16th, 2015
        • Also it’s more realistic. I’m at my computer for way too long every day. So when I move, I move a lot – intensely. I don’t have the luxury of spreading out moderate movement throughout the day. You tell someone they can improve their health in seven minutes of intense exercise three time per week and they are sold.

          Clay wrote on July 16th, 2015
  27. my minimalist workout for when I am time-crunched:

    10 burpees
    4 pullups
    (as fast as possible)
    x4-5 sets (more if i can handle it) either sprinting-style (nice long breaks between the sets) or for overall time (ie I try to keep my breaks as short as possible)

    I’m pretty sure it’s working my whole body, and as such is a fair replacement for a lift-heavy-things workout, and it’s also very cardiovascular, so is a fair replacement for sprinting (it’s my bad weather sprint workout).

    That said, my workouts are fairly consistent, but I need to get more movement into my day. Good to see a 15min walk is adequate, I’m going to try to do some more of those.

    archaeologyboy wrote on July 15th, 2015
  28. for the folks with knee”issues” ( or even with good knees) try the pool!
    use a jogging belt to help keep your form,and you can ” sprint” in the water w/out any impact. plus its a great upper body workout as well!

    dale mcvay wrote on July 15th, 2015
  29. … and to carry on from Dale’s comment above, if you are walking in a pool try using pool gloves (webbed – wet suit material) and it adds some resistance for upper body workout.

    Jen wrote on July 16th, 2015
  30. The tabata sounds nice. The question i have for this study is ” what was the fitness level of the test subjects at the start of the study?” if they were newbies such results would be wonderful. If they were experienced fit folks the results would be more than awesome! The fitter i get the more “work” it takes to improve. Where a person is on the fitness spectrum makes a difference. Remember folks, question everything!

    Georgina wrote on July 16th, 2015
  31. After injuring my knee doing some sprint training and having subsequent surgery, running or impact exercise is off limits for me permanently. So now I walk, a lot! I mix it up with short 20 min very brisk walking and twice a week a longer 90 min easier paced walk. Once a week I do a HIIT session on the bike which only takes 10 mins including warm up and cool down, and some brief body weight stuff scattered throuought the week too. And every day I dedicate 10 mins to a good stretch. It’s not a huge investment in time but gets me great results and feeling good. Most obvious thing I have noticed since training like this from the old cardio days of running, is my appetite has decreased considerably. I used to be insatiably hungry all the time, now I am more in tune with my natural hunger cues.

    Amber wrote on July 16th, 2015
  32. Nice blog post..

    Herbal medicated oils wrote on July 16th, 2015
  33. I love that you still read all the comments, Mark. That’s certainly a challenge in and of itself and quite commendable. I love this post, as it speaks to what Clay said. So many people work seemingly endless hours at a computer. Tell them that a complete workout intense enough to make real gains can be accomplished in seven minutes, and I think you have a winning idea. Thanks for this post, and really, all of them!

    Kevin Grokman wrote on July 17th, 2015
  34. If I am following a fasting protocol of 18 hours (8 pm to noon the following day) would these workouts be safe to perform fasted around 11 am, then have my first meal as my post workout meal.

    I was thinking I would walk or hike (hike on non training days) in the mornings, then three days a week I would do the 7 minute workout twice and the tabata or sprint one day a week before. I would rotate the one day of sprinting and tabata training each week. I am 5’8″ 218 pounds at 29% BF. My goal is overall fitness and weight loss.

    Tony wrote on July 17th, 2015
  35. The minimum dose concept is HUGE!
    That being said, addressing functional exercises is important. A ‘minimum’ dose type program will be much more beneficial if the exercises themselves are functional patterns. I like to use the 7 Primal Movement Patterns by Paul Check in a lot of my programs.
    Love the Primal Blueprint Fitness eBook Mark. Really helps me with my programming and is super easy to follow!

    Mark wrote on July 18th, 2015
  36. First of all, I love most of this post; short, informative and really sums it up. As a former Triathlete (and Ironman) I’ve changed my life totally for the less-is-more.. (as oppose to more-more and much-more)
    Today I do only one 2-3 weeks of Ido Portal 2h workout, which is really really great but I want to adopt what you wrote here and get into some kind of a weekly routine.
    One thing you wrote that confused me a lot was: “…many of these protocols will have crossover effects with each other”. Do you mean that for example “maintain cardiovascular fitness” and “become more fit overall” have opposite effect and thus not as effective?
    please help….

    bzbee wrote on July 19th, 2015
  37. Are these the kind of ideas we should expect in the Primal Endurance book?

    Jason Trew wrote on July 19th, 2015
  38. This is all a bit confusing. I just went back and read the beginning of Primal Fitness Blueprint. I am a woman in my 60’s. I have been LC/Primal/whole food for 4 1/2 years now. I walk frequently. I began to do body weight exercises to prevent loss of muscle. I have consistently done the eccentric version of pull-ups, push-ups, squats, 17 lb. hand weight lifting, (a la Jonathan Bailor) and 1.5-2 min regular plank for a year. I have less consistently done the regular version of these as in the Primal Fitness Blueprint. I have been too lazy to do the sprints. But want to add these as well.

    Question: If I did the eccentric exercises one day a week and PFB exercises on another day would that be an appropriate plan for the lifting of heavy things?

    Pam Forrester wrote on July 20th, 2015
  39. Precision Nutrition has a pretty cool minimalist workout laid out there:
    http://www.precisionnutrition.com/minimal-exercise

    Michel Levis wrote on July 22nd, 2015

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