Intense exercise lasting just eight minutes can improve teenagers’ health

Teenagers who exercise three times a week for between eight and ten minutes reduce their risk of developing heart conditions, according to research by the University of Exeter.

In previous studies the researchers have shown that young people find high-intensity exercise more enjoyable, and that it provides superior health benefits. Their latest study demonstrates that cardiovascular health markers showed ‘significant improvement’ in teenagers with this exercise regime, even if they showed no sign of poor health initially.

Current recommendations say teenagers should exercise for an hour every day in order to prevent heart disease, but statistics show that only about a quarter do so.

Because awareness campaigns aimed at this demographic often fail, the researchers say it is important to look at the possibility of recommending shorter, more intense exercise regimes.

The research team, led by Dr Alan Barker, has asked a group of 13- and 14-year-olds to carry out six high-intensity workouts over a period of two weeks.

The results showed improved blood vessel function and an increase in the brain’s ability to control the beating of the heart. Dr Barker said:

‘We know that activity levels drop significantly as children reach adolescence, and so far attempts to increase this to an hour a day have proved fruitless. This study indicates that, providing the intensity is high, health benefits are achievable with just 8-10 minutes of exercise.’

Dr Bert Bond, the study’s lead author, said:

‘We may have more success in encouraging teenagers to dedicate a shorter time to improving their health by performing high-intensity exercise. This is an important finding, but more work is needed to inform existing physical activity guidelines for health.

‘The next step is to confirm these results on more participants, especially groups who are at greater risk of future cardiovascular disease, and to address the impact of longer high-intensity interventions.’