Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we look at the cell-boosting benefits of just two minutes of intense training, the growing loneliness epidemic, and the best timing for your flu shot.

A little movement can go a long way

You might be tempted to skip that workout if you’re pressed for time. However, new research shows that just two minutes of vigorous interval exercise has the same beneficial effects as that of 30 minutes of moderate steady-state aerobic exercise.

Participants in this study on Today who did four 30-second “all-out” sprint intervals on the bike as fast as they could, with 4.5 minutes of recovery time in between, saw the same gains in muscle mitochondria—the cell powerhouses that help maintain energy and carry out other vital processes to maintain health—as the participants who worked out at a moderate pace for 30 minutes.

Previous studies also have shown that high-intensity interval training similar to these cycling sprints had real cardiovascular benefits and were the best bet for aging muscles.

Still, these sprints are probably best used as “icing on the cake” or mixed in with other workouts, given the intensity, says lead author Adam Trewin, a researcher at the Institute for Health & Sport at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia.

Is loneliness becoming a public health threat?

At a time when our online connection is at an all-time high, Americans are getting ever lonelier, which could pose a big threat to mental health in this country, according to this op-ed from a professor of public health in The Hill.

A recent study from The Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 9 percent of adults in Japan, 22 percent in America and 23 percent in Britain “always” or “often” feel lonely or lack companionship.

Another study by Cigna of 20,000 U.S. adults noted that nearly half of American adults reported “sometimes” or “always” feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent) and that more than 1 in 4 Americans “rarely” or “never” feel that people understand them. Separately, 43 percent of Americans said they “sometimes” or “always” feel that their relationships lack meaning and they are isolated.

One finding really stood out: Generation Z (those aged 22 and younger), who spend a lot of time on their smartphones, may be the loneliest generation, scoring the lowest of every age group in social connection.

That’s bad news, experts say, because this sense of connection is so critical for mental health, physical well-being and longevity.

The adolescents who fared the best in surveys of loneliness and isolation were those who spent more time “in real life” social interactions, sports and workouts; doing homework; reading print media; and attending religious services.

Indeed, the epidemic has been acknowledged in the United Kingdom, with doctors now making “social prescriptions,” specifying that patients take part in a structured social activity. So when you’re hitting that Zumba class, know that you’re doing more for your well-being than you realize.

The best timing for that flu shot

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all adults and children older than 6 months should get the shot by the end of this month to get the best protection from the flu.

Of course, even with it, there’s no guarantee you won’t get the flu. (Last year’s vaccine was only 36 percent effective, according to Time.) But the CDC still recommends that you get one because it reduces your chances and helps to stop the spread of the flu.

The vaccine and nasal spray have been changed this year to better target the viruses expected to be in circulation.

Photo credit: Fabrizio Verrecchia