We love short, intense workouts. Perhaps the trend really picked up speed with the whole High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) movement, but several programs have since followed suit including the ever-popular “7-minute workout.” Based on scientific findings, this workout promises a variety of fitness improvements in just a brief workout and has spawned apps, videos and articles to coach you through it.
And it’s really not surprising that we so quickly latched on to this concept. The thought of only having to devote a few minutes to a workout that will nonetheless improve your health is, among other things, liberating. While many of these workouts are guilty of a certain degree of sensationalism (the 7-minute workout, for example, actually takes 21 minutes to complete according to the original article), they are a powerful tool with proven usefulness.
But why? What exactly makes them so great? A new study may help us to understand the full mechanism at work in the short, intense workouts.
Researchers working at the Scripps Research Institute have successfully pinpointed the one factor that makes these workouts so very effective. As it turns out, the thing that makes all that difference is the activation of a single molecule. The substance in question is a protein called CRCT2 that is switched into action after short, intense bouts of exercise.
These types of workouts essentially drive your body in to a “fight-or-flight” response that sends adrenaline surging through your system to make sure that you can keep up with the challenges you’re face with. The CRCT2 protein works along with both the adrenaline and calcium pathways to cause adaptations in your muscles. But here’s the really fascinating aspect of this protein: It works only on the contracting muscle group.
There’s another kicker, though. In the study, the researchers genetically engineered mice to express the effects of CRCT2 and, observing these mice, found that the protein can cause the benefits of exercise without actually exercising. These mice enjoyed a 15 percent increase in muscle size and a massive increase in available fuel stores.
Of course, these benefits were only increased when the genetically modified mice were put through an intense workout. There is still no replacement for a solid workout. But, these findings help us to understand exact what is happening in our bodies when we exercise.
These findings also suggest that the adaptations that our bodies undergo when we exercise run deeper than we previously realized. Not only do your muscles become stronger and faster, but they also become better prepared to respond to future workouts.
While this is all very interesting, does it actually serve a purpose?
Not yet. Remember, this study was conducted on mice so the findings would need to be recreated in the human body. Nonetheless, it does open up a new field of researcher surrounding the activation of this protein. In we can manipulate how our bodies express CRCT2, we could greatly increase the benefits of our workouts.