Just Ten Minutes of Daily High Intensity Exercise Will Benefit Your Teen’s Heart

By Dan Peterson, TeamSnap's Sports Science Expert


It’s hard to pin down the exact moment when the switch gets flipped. One minute your kids are running around the house, the yard, the neighborhood with you chasing them and the next minute they are surgically attached to the couch with only their thumb muscles getting a workout on their phone. Some teens stay involved with sports, some get outside now and then but still only 30% of boys and 20% of girls get the recommended 60 minutes of exercise each day. 

Researchers in the UK thought maybe an hour per day is just asking too much, so they took a look at high intensity interval training (HIIT) to see if short, demanding shots of exercise would deliver the same health benefits. 

Led by Dr. Bert Bond of the University of Exeter, the research team gathered a group of teen volunteers, boys and girls between the ages of 13-14 to try two different types of exercises over two weeks.  Each day, while having their blood sugar, blood pressure and fat metabolism measured over 8 hours, they were either asked to do four rounds of either high or moderate intensity cycling challenges.  The high intensity sessions were 1 minute bursts of cycling at 90% of peak power with 75 seconds of easy cycling in between. While they performed the same amount of work in each session, it was the level of intensity that differed.

The results showed that the HIIT sessions improved important biomarkers for cardiovascular health in the teens by controlling blood sugar levels, fat metabolism and blood pressure while the moderate exercise sessions did not show the same results.

These short bursts of activity mimic how these adolescents used to play as kids, occasionally sprinting, chasing, climbing during their hours of fun. Getting some of this type of movement back in their lives is important to their long-term health.

"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,” said Dr. Alan Barker of the Children's Health and Exercise Research Centre, Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter and co-author of the study. “The intensity of this pattern of exercise is important, with high-intensity providing superior health benefits than moderate-intensity exercise."

Their research has been published in the journal Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

"We may have more success in encouraging teenagers to dedicate a shorter time to improving their health by performing high-intensity exercise,” said Dr. Bert Bond. “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."

So, encourage your teen to chase their dog or younger siblings around. Or maybe grab their phone and throw it into the yard. That will get them moving in a hurry.

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Dan Peterson is a recovering sports dad who is fascinated with sports science research, skill development and the athlete’s brain. He has written over 400 science-based articles across the Web and consults with parents, coaches and young players to help them understand the cognitive side of sports. You can visit him at Sports Are 80 Percent Mental and at @DanielPeterson.

Release Date: Oct 14 2015

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