THIS article is worth looking at again…Sarah just wrote to me and admitted that she can’t fathom that such a short workout can be useful so more often than not, skips it completely. This FEV article mentions a study that resulted in significant improvement in one 3 weeks of 3 times a week!
Four minutes 3-days-a-week, too good to be true?
I still quote this study, nearly a year later. Four minutes of exercise only 3 days per week helps! How much – read on.
Overweight, relatively sedentary men were recruited for this study and outcome after 10-weeks was concluded using Blood pressure, body fat%, VO2 max (a marker of overall fitness and exercise capacity), and other blood test markers. The two groups were divided to do one round of an intense 4-minute circuit or four-rounds through the same intense circuit. Intensity was at 90% of their maximum heart rate. For reference, conversation is difficult above 75% of you maximum heart rate, so this is not casual exercise, but it only lasts 4-minutes and only 3 days per week! The other group did the four-minute workout four times in a row with a 3-minute period of active recovery (they were allowed to pedal a bike at about 70% of their maximum heart rate for the 3-minutes) between each 4-minute circuit. This brought their workout to 25-minutes total.
The single four-minute group?
- Blood pressure lowered by 6-7 units on both the top and bottom number (systolic and diastolic)
- Blood glucose dropped by 5%
- VO2 max improved significantly, by 10% – Yes, a four minute workout 3 days per week does get you in shape if you start from nothing.
With all this good news. Why bother with the longer, harder 25-minute workout? Because the longer workout received all the above benefits, but ALSO had
- Reduction in body fat
- Drop in total cholesterol and reduction of the damaging oxidized LDL’s
- VO2 max increased 30% more than the shorter workout.
Take Home: Something is better than nothing – but as your workout approaches 25-minutes you will reach a greater level of fitness with less body fat and a healthier overall system. And my experience, when you are fitter, you will feel better, sexier and overall perform better in your life.
I belong to the local YMCA and I work in an office with a full fitness and training facility, but I still keep equipment at home so there are no excuses to missing a proper workout. Check out this post for the simple exercise equipment that can help you in your fitness habit life.
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Tjønna AE, et al. Low- and high-volume of intensive endurance training significantly improves maximal oxygen uptake after 10-weeks of training in healthy men. PLoS One. 2013 May 29;8(5):e65382.
Amazing! My takeaway is that when i really really busy on a day, it is ok to hit the gym, do the 4 minutes thing and don’t feel guilty about it. Otherwise, 25 minutes or more 🙂
John, I reply to this not as the author or physician – but as a kid raised in a Catholic, guilt-inspired marathoning family. Yes, I agree–it is Amazing to find the science support as little as 4-minutes. My guilt now only comes from doing absolutely nothing. But with 5-10 minutes of exercise – that happens very rarely indeed!