It just takes 12 minutes of exercise to start getting healthy, according to science

Just 12 minutes of vigorous exercise can fight diabetes, cancer, inflammation and weight gain

Active seniors with exercise mats
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Not everyone has a lot of time to exercise. In a world in which our lives are increasingly busy, even a short half-an-hour HIIT workout session can feel like a hassle, when you factor in getting changed, showering, and working yourself up to get out the door in the first place. It can feel like a losing battle even as you're lacing up your workout shoes

However, new research has found you only have to exercise for around 12 minutes a day to begin to get the heart health and weight loss benefits involved in intense exercise. Sure, the longer you exercise, the more calories you're able to burn, but your body begins to open up pathways to better health even during short bursts of exercise, so your quick bursts of exercise during lunch or after work are never in vain. 

The research comes from scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital, who studied 411 middle-aged men and women after 12 minutes of vigorous exercise. The research found "acute cardiopulmonary exercise" caused a number of changes to the participants bodies. 

Glutamate, a key amino acid linked to heart disease, diabetes and a shorter lifespan, dropped by 30%. DMGV, an acid associated with increased risk of diabetes and liver disease, dropped by 18%. 

Woman stretching after exercise outdoors

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Investigator Gregory Lewis, MD, said: "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."

Inflammation is a big risk to the body, especially chronic or internal inflammation. Ordinarily, some mild inflammation in response to an injury or illness is a natural and healthy response, but when the entire body is under attack from an unhealthy lifestyle, excess inflammation and oxidative stress can lead to diseases such as cancer.

It's good to know 12 minutes of vigorous exercise is all it takes. Try one of our workouts plucked from the four-week HIIT training plan or our best exercises for weight loss, to really take things to the next level, as intense exercises such as kettlebell swings and burpees can really activate those metabolites and burn off some calories.

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. 

Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.