The 4 minute workout: The latest fad or genius?

Can you really exercise for only four minutes a day?







The 4 Minute Workout. That’s the headline that caught my eye on the New York Times website a little while ago.

I almost broke my computer in my scramble to scroll down and find out if it was legit. Can we really cut our workouts down to just FOUR MINUTES A DAY? Four minutes is nothing. That’s less than the amount of time it takes me to shower/put my make-up on/get dressed/get a hot chocolate from the cafe/do just about anything. So much more achievable than say, the half an hour I usually spend running, or the hour-long Zumba classes I do, or the entire days I’ve spent sailing…

The NYT article was based on a study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Essentially – researchers from that university decided to find the absolute minimum amount of exercise required to actually get any benefits to endurance and/or health.

It’s all based on the idea of interval training – that whole thing when you alternate a really intense workout with a not-so-intense workout. So, for example, sprinting for 100m and walking for 300.

The study itself was based on a rather long-winded experiment in which a bunch of men ran really fast on treadmills for only four minutes, while another bunch of men did interval training for about 30 minutes. The difference between the two, after 10 weeks? None. Well, nothing significant, anyway.

The ultimate conclusion? Exercising really hard for four minutes, three times a week, can actually adequately improve your health. That’s pretty excellent news for those of you who haven’t managed to get to the gym this week and are feeling seriously guilty about it.

But – and yes, of course there has to be a but – the four minute workout is limited to high-intensity cardio – so if you want to, say, get a good yoga workout, I’d hazard a guess that four minutes will probably not do it for you.


Not to mention that (and excuse me while I put my fitness blogger hat on for a sec, I’m sorry, I have to) you won’t get any of the other benefits involved in exercise if you choose to only do it for four minutes a day. For example:

– You are highly unlikely to actually improve at any kind of activity if you only partake in it for four minutes at a time. Imagine if you only skied for four minutes at a time. Or swam for four minutes at a time. Or surfed for four minutes at a time.

Sorry love, your four minutes is up. Turn around and go home now.

– As a result, you will find it very hard to kick any goals, which – let’s agree – is really the best thing about exercising. Nobody would put themselves through the pain of running without the satisfaction of being able to run further the week after, and the week after that, and the week after that, and eventually you can manage a 14km run without even having to stop halfway through to throw up. WINNER!

– You’ll hardly get any time to yourself, which is the other best thing about exercising. Especially for mums – that half an hour or hour away from small people demanding something different every few seconds can be a sanity saver. Four minutes is not particularly adequate in a relaxation and/or mental health capacity. Imagine going a holiday that only lasts four minutes? No dice.

– You miss out on all the fun bits of exercise. You can’t adequately do an awesome Zumba class/play a game of touch with your friends/do an amazing bush walk that finishes at a beach/complete a fun run (Colour Run next weekend, anyone?)/do a great ocean swim/play Ultimate Frisbee in four minutes.

So, in conclusion? It’s probably best if you stick to your regular-time exercise sessions, and save the four-minute sessions for those weeks that are all, “how did it get to Friday, it was only Monday yesterday and there’s nothing in the pantry except for rice and why don’t I have any clothes left and WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY MOTHER IN LAW IS COMING TO STAY?”.

How long do you usually exercise for?


The Athlete’s Foot want you to get out of the house and get involved in the 2013 running season. For the next fourteen weeks, you can Tweet or Instagram a picture/post/video of yourself pounding the pavement with the hashtag #IDIDIT for your chance to win a free fitting and pair of running shoes from The Athlete’s Foot. Oh, and don’t forget to tag @theathletesfootaustralia. Visit the website for more details. Happy running!