Minutes in the gym are better than hours on the road, say doctors

Exercise bike is a more efficient way of getting fit, apparently

by Tom Henry   March 15, 2010  

exercise bike.jpg

Blasting a series of ten one-minute sprints on an exercise bike three times a week has the same benefits as ten hours of distance cycling, say scientists.

Researchers at McMaster University in Canada say high-intensity exercise at 95 per cent of your maximum heart rate is an efficient way of avoiding heart disease, obesity and stroke.

The ideal pace pushes people beyond their comfort zone but is about half of their ‘all-out’ speed, said study author Prof Martin Gibala.

“This less extreme, high-intensity method may work well for older, less fit and slightly overweight people whose doctors might have worries about them exercising “all-out”,’ he said.

Endurance training widens the network of blood vessels supplying muscle cells so that a person can carry out daily activities more effectively and without strain.

Brief, intense exercise appears to have the same effect, although the reason for this is still unclear.

“It appears that high-intensity exercise stimulates many of the same cellular pathways that are responsible for the beneficial effects we associate with endurance training,” added Prof Gibala.

“The exercise protocol we used should be possible to do by the general public and you don’t need more than an average exercise bike.”

However, dripping sweat on to a machine that someone else has just dripped sweat on, accompanied by the latest N-Dubz video on the gym telly, is a hardly a substitute for the highways and byways of the UK. Or is it? Let us know at road.cc


15 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

It's certainly safer in the gym.


posted by OldRidgeback [2581 posts]
15th March 2010 - 10:10


How about doing the high intensity intervals on a real bike on the road (albeit, I tend to choose quiet roads).

But as you may be aware, I do like my turbo V02 max intervals too.

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [693 posts]
15th March 2010 - 10:23


I'll stick to the road thank you .... you meet the
nicest of people - If he reads this ... A big thank you
to the RAF rider I met outside Portishead for the
navigation tips Smile

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [923 posts]
15th March 2010 - 10:37


Is it a slow week for news? This isn't exactly a new idea.
I blame the researcher's own headline
Here's a link

vorsprung's picture

posted by vorsprung [298 posts]
15th March 2010 - 10:47


Old news.

My postie cycles miles everyday, and I bet he's as slow as can be on a time trial. It's not what you do, but how you do it.

Tabata training has been shown to be massively effective in training, and that's 8 sets of 20 secs flat-out sprint, 10 secs rest. 4 minutes of exercise, and you're done for the day. Truly evil stuff if you do it properly. Smile

Bring me sunshine, and dry roads

MalcolmBinns's picture

posted by MalcolmBinns [114 posts]
15th March 2010 - 11:58


To be fair, previous iterations of Gibala's "HIT" work have looked at maximum intensity intervals with young healthy people (eg http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18434437). This one (http://jp.physoc.org/content/588/6/1011.full) is new in that looked at lower intensity training which may be less risky for older, less fit individuals but the evidence here is pretty thin, since thats not what they tested - the trial involved just 7 /fit/ men, aged /21/. At best he can say its worth looking into further, and that's what they say they are going to do.

BTW yet another example of what Ben Goldacre's been bugging the BBC about - online articles about science should really link to the study. (more on that here: http://bengoldacre.posterous.com/no-movement-on-the-bbcs-bizarre-links-p...)

posted by bazzargh [147 posts]
15th March 2010 - 12:24


We do try to put a link to the original research - if you look back at other science stories you will find them, but any site that handles news is only going to spend a certain amount of time looking there are always other stories stacking up behind demanding attention - we are not a scientific publisher, I imagine that's what the BBC's position is too.

As far as I can see this is both old news and new - I can remember reporting on what I presume was the original research five years ago, as bazzargh says this is new in that it's about short burst training at less than flat out, and these preliminary results have only just been published… well, January.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
15th March 2010 - 14:44


My comment ....... ?

(1st post)

The Gym is for those that cannot get out on to the road.

The Road is for those that cannot get on to the Track.

So ....... want the best workout in the shortest time ?

Get to a Velodrome ....... it is the best ! Wink

posted by Nolan Emmett [1 posts]
16th March 2010 - 20:20


When it's snowing i get on the rowing machine and a couple of sessions of 30-40 minutes gets a good sweat going similar to that from riding up 13% grades around here and sessions on the touring skis. Thigh burn at the end of each session lets me know when the effort has had a result, overall it doesn't matter which form of exercise you use, the result should be to enjoy the experience.

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

skippy's picture

posted by skippy [409 posts]
16th March 2010 - 21:38


hey road.cc, no need to get defensive! what works best, works best, and if that isn't road cycling then so be it. i ride for fun and the fitness is a wonderful side-effect. if i was just after fitness i'd choose a different form of exercise.

caketaster's picture

posted by caketaster [17 posts]
17th March 2010 - 3:27


Heh! We're not getting defensive caketaster - the point for us is the research may well be right, but that misses out the reason that you and so many of the rest of us ride a bike in the great outdoors - because it's fun and we enjoy it.

For me fitness is a happy side effect Smile

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
17th March 2010 - 9:32


From my personal experience, hitting the Spin classes at the gym works wonders.
I'm club cyclist and hadn't ridden between Sept and early/mid Feb due to break in relationship, but was going to spin classes twice a week and I also had the benefit of the weight loss that goes with a relationship ending.

Did I miss being out on the bike? Of course I did.
Did I suffer from having not ridden for several months? Much to my surprise, NO! In fact, the couple of people who I put on a similar level to me when riding, were somewhat put out by the fact that they hadn't seen me on my bike for months, and upon my return I was kicking their arses!!

So, I'm firmly in the camp of, getting to the gym for spin classes as often as you can!! it is a completely different workout to real riding.

Enjoy! B)

i_want_one_of_those's picture

posted by i_want_one_of_those [12 posts]
17th March 2010 - 13:34


Another plus point: the eye candy in the gym is invariably better than what you get to see out on the road. Ignoring the photo above, of course.

posted by mogrim [47 posts]
18th March 2010 - 8:06


mogrim wrote:
Another plus point: the eye candy in the gym is invariably better than what you get to see out on the road. Ignoring the photo above, of course.

Damn, my real reason for going to the Spin Class has been found out!!

i_want_one_of_those's picture

posted by i_want_one_of_those [12 posts]
18th March 2010 - 15:22


Well the title says it all, and it is so true, I mean a little effort will make your day better and keep you healthier, not to mention that it will make you look good, even if with a few steroid cycles , but still you will be better then ever.

posted by giminicologu [1 posts]
11th June 2010 - 23:07