Even a Four Minute Workout Has Big Results

If you don’t know what H.I.I.T means (and why would you?), it stands for high intensity interval training. And it’s just that - exercising by alternating short, intense bursts with longer, moderate ones. It’s actually the way bodies are meant to move, before we had couches and cars and elevators and grocery stores. (We like these things, I know... and we should!)

I just came across a bunch of new research on the big benefits of interval movement. It turns out that not having enough time to exercise isn’t really a thing. You have four minutes, three times a week, right? These studies all resulted in real improvement in overall fitness, blood pressure, metabolic rate, blood sugar resistance, muscle strength - equally as good in these areas as a long, sustained workout. I hear you, and yes, this is still harder than NOT exercising, but the payoff is really big, in ways you’re going to like, so see if you can challenge yourself to try.

Here’s my cheat sheet for you from all the studies. Pick one and play around with it. Try them all. I mean, now you have time, right? :)

(None of these findings suggest you should stop those long walks or bike rides - those are fabulous for your body and mind. Just add short bursts on the days you used to write off as too busy for exercise - three times a week is ideal, but once is great, too!)

10 minute cardio workout (1 minute of intensity)

2 minutes - warm up at an easy pace (walk or slow jog)

20 seconds - do an all out burst (sprint, or something equivalent)

2 minutes - easy (back to a jog)

20 seconds - all out burst

2 minutes - easy

20 seconds - all out burst

3 minutes - cool down (walk)

7 minute whole-body workout

30 seconds for each exercise, without much or any break in between:

  1. jumping jacks
  2. wall sit (sit with your back against a wall, thighs parallel to the ground, and hold - no chair)
  3. push ups (on either your feet or knees as you can)
  4. ab crunches
  5. chair step-ups (alternating legs, step up and back down from a sturdy chair)
  6. squats (keep knees over toes)
  7. tricep dips (hands on a chair seat behind you, lower torso down and up, legs bent or straight)
  8. plank hold (top of a push up position)
  9. high knees/running in place
  10. alternating lunges - forward and back
  11. push up with side rotations (at the top of each push up, pivot and raise your top arm straight to the ceiling)
  12. side plank hold (on the sides of both feet, with one hand supporting you down from your shoulder, the other straight towards ceiling)

4 minute cardio workout

Sprint or row or pedal or climb for one sustained 4 minute burst, three times a week. (Yes - this has as much benefit as a long moderate workout - just make sure it’s intense and your heart rate is up around an 8 or 9 on a scale of 10!) Feel free to add a little warm up or cool down.

30-20-10 workout (12 minutes)

Run, ride or do whatever cardio activity you like, gently for 30 seconds.

Accelerate to a moderate pace for 20 seconds.

Sprint as hard as you can for 10 seconds.

Repeat for five loops total, without a rest in between.

Then rest for two minutes (stop or walk slowly) and do the whole thing again one more time.

You don’t need a stopwatch, you can just count to yourself - or use a timer if you like - whatever makes it easier and more fun.

Easy walking intervals (6 minutes at a time, 30 minutes a week)

High-intensity interval training programs aren’t for everyone. Here’s a way to seriously improve your fitness and strength in a gentler way, but still with the big benefits of intervals.

Walk for 3 minutes at a 6 or 7 level on a scale from 1 to 10 (somewhat hard).

Stroll for 3 minutes.

Repeat 5 sets either all at once, or at other times throughout the day.