Three minutes of intense exercise, three times a week, is equivalent to five one-hour sessions according to research at the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, offering hope for people too busy to find the time to work out.

Approximately two thirds of adults in England are categorised as overweight or obese, making us the fattest country in Europe. Now scientists at Birmingham are pioneering an exercise study which proposes that short periods of high-intensity exercise can be as beneficial as the recommended sixty minute sessions, seeking to offer a health and fitness solution to busy individuals.

Previous research by scientists Dr Chris Shaw and Sam Shepherd has revealed the same health and fitness improvements in individuals undertaking these short, intense bouts of physical activity and longer, more frequent but less strenuous exercises. They are now turning their attention to the overweight population, who are more at risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease as a result of their health and fitness levels, to establish whether exercise training of a shorter duration can be as effective as the recommended exercise guidelines.

See Dr Chris Shaw speaking to BBC News about this research

Lead researcher Sam Shepherd, from the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences comments:

“Although we all know exercise is good for us, the majority of people don’t meet the recommended guidelines of 30-60 minutes per day and the most common reason for this is lack of time.”

“Our previous research shows that repeated 30-second bouts of intense exercise three times per week in 20-minute sessions, elicits the same improvements in physical health and fitness, as performing 60 minutes of moderate exercise five times per week. Therefore, the total time commitment for exercise can be reduced from five hours to only one hour per week, yielding the same health and fitness benefits.”

Supervisor, Dr Chris Shaw adds:

“We are now hoping to show the same beneficial effects in an obese population who are more at risk of type 2-diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We hope that this time-efficient way of exercising can mean that even professionals with a hectic life can fit in health-promoting exercise and help challenge the ongoing rise of obesity and associated risk factors.”

The researchers are seeking to recruit participants to take part in this stage of the study. They are looking for male volunteers with a BMI greater than 30 to undergo four weeks of supervised exercise training in two groups: endurance exercise training and high-intensity training. The first group will be required to complete five 40-60 minute cycle training sessions per week, whilst the second group will undertake repeated 30 second bouts of exercise, taking a total of 20 minutes, three times a week and at the convenience of the volunteer.

Before and after the training, a series of cardiovascular and metabolic tests will be carried out to establish how health and fitness levels have been improved by the training. Participants will receive exercise and nutritional advice as well as £50 to reimburse travel expenses.

To participate, or to find out more about the study, please contact Sam Shepherd via 0121 414 8746 or The study is funded by the Insulin Dependent Diabetes Trust, for more information, visit

Notes to Editors 

• Researchers are looking to recruit male participants aged between 18 and 35

• Participants should have a BMI greater than 30

• Participants should be healthy, with no known metabolic disorder

Exclusion criteria for participants:

• Participants must not apply if they are simultaneously taking part in another scientific or clinical study

• Participants must not apply if they are already involved in regular exercise training

• Participants must not apply if they have diabetes

For further media information, please contact Amy Cory, University of Birmingham Press Office, tel: 0121 414 6029 or email: