You can learn the basics of CPR in as little as a minute. And what you learn in that minute is enough to save a life.

Those are the conclusions of a recent study testing usefulness of an ultra brief CPR training video. People who watched the 60-second video were able to perform CPR nearly as well as those with more extensive training, more than well enough to help a heart attack victim.

Current estimates are that only 26% of bystanders will perform CPR in a real-life situation; nearly three-quarters won't even make the attempt. This study suggests a simple way to boost this. And heart attack victims who receive CPR are more than twice as likely to survive.

After their training, study participants...were told to do 'whatever you think is best to help.'

The 60-second video, as well as longer, more extensive videos, can be viewed at the American Heart Association website.

The study tested bystander willingness and ability to perform CPR after receiving one of four different amounts of training: no training at all, a sixty-second (ultra brief) video, a five-minute video or an eight-minute video plus CPR practice on a manikin.

After their training, study participants (336) were led to a manikin and informed that the manikin was a real person who had just collapsed and that they were the only other person in the area. They were told to do "whatever you think is best to help."

Nearly one-quarter of the untrained group did not even attempt to perform CPR. For all other groups, the number of non-attempters was less than 1%.

In hands-only CPR, the currently favored method, bystanders are taught to call 911 and then begin chest compressions on the victim, continuing until medical personnel arrive. Ideally, the chest should be compressed to a depth of 38 millimeters (1.5 inches) or more and 100 compressions should be done a minute.

In this study, the untrained participants who did attempt CPR, on average, performed 62 compressions per minute at a depth of 30 millimeters. All participants who had received any training performed between 90 and 100 compressions per minute at a depth of over 40 millimeters, much better than the untrained group. And while there were some differences between the trained groups, they were very small: participants who watched the 60-second video did virtually as well as their better-trained counterparts.

The study also looked at how long participants retained their training by conducting tests at two different times: some participants were tested 3 minutes after training, others two months later. The added two months did not affect any of the groups' ability to perform chest compressions (depth or frequency). The only difference found was a slight increase in reluctance of those who watched the 60-second video to perform CPR two months later: 4.2% were unwilling two months after training, compared to zero unwilling 3 minutes after training.

Hands-only CPR requires no mouth-to-mouth. According to this study, many more people would feel confident enough to attempt CPR in real-life if only they'd watch a sixty-second video. Now all they have to do is watch it.

An article describing the study was published online by the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes on March 8, 2011 and will appear in a future print edition of the journal. The article is freely available.