This Harvard Study Reveals the Exact Amount of Time We Should Exercise

  • By Hayley Folk
  • May 26
This Harvard Study Reveals the Exact Amount of Time We Should Exercise
  • According to a new Harvard-affiliated study, short bursts of exercise can actually impact your overall health and wellness
  • You should exercise for 12-minute stints — here is why

When it comes to your fitness journey, everyone is on their own path, and there are a lot of factors to consider. But in the past, you might have wondered: how long should a person exercise for? It might be a shorter amount of time than you would think — a 12-minute burst of exercise should do it.

Now, researchers have found the answer: short bursts of exercise induces changes in the body’s levels of metabolites that directly affect a person’s metabolic health.

Can a 12-minute burst of exercise do anything for you?

12-minute burst of exerciseThe paper published in Correlation, by the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), aimed to discover what exactly 12 minutes of vigorous exercise could do for the body. The researchers concluded that doing a bout of acute cardiopulmonary exercise leads to an increase in circulating metabolites.

Using data from the Framingham Heart Study — a study began in 1948 by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute — they measured the levels of 588 metabolites of 411 middle-aged men and women before and after completion of the 12-minute vigorous exercise.

Affecting more than 80% of circulating metabolites, researchers linked 12 minutes of exercise to a wide range of favorable health outcomes and a better understanding of the cardiometabolic benefits of exercise.

The benefits it can have

The research team found that glutamate — a key metabolite tied to diabetes, heart disease and reduced longevity — decreased by 29%. Another metabolite called DMGV — which is linked to a greater risk of liver disease and diabetes — decreased by 18%.

According to the research, a 12-minute burst of exercise can change your metabolic health including positively impacting your blood sugar, triglyceride, HDL cholesterol and your blood pressure.

“What was striking to us was the effects a brief bout of exercise can have on the circulating levels of metabolites that govern such key bodily functions as insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation, and longevity,” said investigator Gregory Lewis, section head of Heart Failure at MGH and senior author of the study.

Interestingly, the study also discovered that factors other than exercise could impact a person’s metabolic response, including age, weight and gender.

By studying the long-term effects of metabolic signatures of exercise responses, researchers were able to predict the future state of an individual’s health, and their likely life-span.

“We’re starting to better understand the molecular underpinnings of how exercise affects the body and use that knowledge to understand the metabolic architecture around exercise response patterns,” says co-first author Ravi Shah of the Heart Failure and Transplantation Section in the Division of Cardiology at MGH. “This approach has the potential to target people who have high blood pressure or many other metabolic risk factors in response to exercise, and set them on a healthier trajectory early in their lives.”

The takeaway

Whether you’re looking to impact your metabolic health or simply get in a short burst of energy, the team proved that a 12-minute workout could be just the key. And hey — it’s only a short time commitment, right?

Try it for yourself today with these exercises: running, yoga, biking or even following along to a 12-minute exercise video will do.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.