Are You A Non-Responder?

In 2012, Doctor Michael Mosley undertook a form of interval training, that came to be known as the Timmons Regime, as part of a BBC documentary ‘Horizon: The Truth About Exercise’ (Mosley, 2012).

Jamie Timmons, professor of ageing biology at the University of Birmingham, is a proponent of a few short bursts of flat-out intensity. Mosley (2012) describes Timmons method:

“It’s actually very simple. You get on an exercise bike, warm up by doing gentle cycling for a couple of minutes, then go flat out for 20 seconds. A couple of minutes to catch your breath, then another 20 seconds at full throttle. Another couple of minutes gentle cycling, then a final 20 seconds going hell for leather. And that’s it.”

Mosley repeated this routine over four weeks, “making a grand total of 12 minutes of intense exercise and 36 minutes of gentle pedalling.” Mosley also completed pre- and post-regime testing for:

  • Insulin sensitivity, which improved by 24%; and
  • Aerobic fitness, which did not improve at all – it was revealed that Mosley was a ‘non-responder’.

“There was a possibility that I wouldn’t improve. Not because HIT [high intensity training] doesn’t work but because I’ve inherited the wrong genes.” (Mosley, 2012).

In research conducted as part of the HERITAGE Family Study, results suggest that individuals will respond to exercise in very different ways, with some of this difference due to their genes.

In one international study (see link) 1,000 people were asked to exercise four hours a week for 20 weeks.

Their aerobic fitness was measured before and after starting this regime and the results were striking.

Although 15% of people made huge strides (known as super-responders), 20% showed no real improvement at all (known as non-responders).

There is no suggestion that the non-responders were not exercising properly, it was simply that the exercise they were doing was not making them any aerobically fitter.


Mosley, M.J. (2012) Can Three Minutes of Exercise a Week Help Make You Fit? Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 20 July, 2017].


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