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Another gutless piece of Journalism. Reuters Mon. Feb 12, 2007
   

Canada firm touts fitness gain from 4-minute pain

By Frank Pingue Mon Feb 12, 2:48 PM ET

TORONTO (Reuters) - The promise is attractive: a sweat-free four-minute workout that will give you the same results as a grueling 90-minute session at the local gym.

A Canadian company is making that silver-bullet pledge as it attempts to build a chain of store-front exercise havens for people who don't have the time or inclination for more traditional fitness methods.

Fitness experts warned that nothing is that easy.

The company, H.I.T, has opened its first exercise shop in the underground city beneath Toronto's financial core. It contains five narrow stalls, each housing a C$15,000 range-of-motion machine and little else besides coat hooks for time-strapped members who choose to slip out of their jackets and work out in business clothes.

H.I.T says it plans to open hundreds of such locations in Canadian cities within five years with membership dues comparable to traditional gyms.

"For most people this is their only form of exercise because they can't find time in the week to spend an hour, hour and a half, at the gym," said Julie O'Brien, director of operations at H.I.T.

Fitness experts say the company's bulky H.I.T Fit cross trainer, which looks like a slightly scrunched elliptical trainer stuck to the back of a rowing machine and centered around a flywheel, cannot replace more traditional methods of exercise.

A high-intensity four-minute workout on the H.I.T machine may build muscle tone, they say, but calorie burn will be relatively meager.

"There's no quick fix to gaining fitness or to exercising without sweating," said Jack Goodman, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Toronto.

"Well beyond the field of exercise, one should be wary of any claim that tries to do something in four minutes that typically would take hours."

O'Brien said four minutes aboard her company's machine is equivalent to 45 minutes of resistance training, 30 minutes of running and 20 minutes of stretching.

And while the workout burns just 40 to 50 calories, she said the lingering effects of its high intensity will burn an additional 500 calories over the next 24 hours.

Steven Blair, a professor in the department of exercise science at the University of South Carolina, said high intensity training could increase the length of afterburn. But he dismissed claims of 24 hours.

"It's largely nonsense," said Blair, an internationally recognized authority on exercise and its health benefits. "I'm going to remain pretty skeptical until I see data from a well controlled study published in a quality peer review journal."

H.I.T's Web site cites a research paper on the long-term benefits of high intensity training. But company president Morry Patoka acknowledged that the paper had not been published in any journal and was a compilation of different sources.

While the four-minute workout is taxing enough to leave even a fit participant gasping for breath, the longer-term benefit is still unclear.

"It's a lot of hype and not a lot of of substance," Goodman said. "Short of saying it's useless, which I wouldn't, the claims that they make go probably beyond the reality of what's sustainable."