Can A Burst of 4 Seconds of Intense Exercise Get You Healthy and Fit?

4 seconds of intense exercise can improve your health and fitness level,

As crazy as it seems, just 4 seconds of intense exercise can improve your health and fitness level, but you must do it frequently throughout the day. Here’s why 4 seconds can make a big difference.

4 seconds of intense exercise can improve your health and fitness level,

As crazy as it seems, just 4 seconds of intense exercise can improve your health and fitness level, but you must do it frequently throughout the day. Here’s why 4 seconds can make a big difference.

The quick answer to the question, “Can a burst of 4 seconds of intense exercise get you healthy and fit” is no.

But several such bursts over the course of the day can do wonders for your health and fitness, says a recently published study.

If you’re having a hard time sticking to an exercise regimen, perhaps moving with some intensity for 4 seconds several times a day is a good way to start.

And if you’re super motivated, you can expand it from there.

The bottom line is: If you don’t want to fall apart as you age, you must get up and move frequently!


The 4 Seconds of Intense Exercise Study

4 seconds of intense exercisex

A stationary bike like this one from Rogue Fitness is ideal for HIIT because it requires the use of both your upper and lower body muscles, thereby compounding the metabolic load and effectiveness of short bursts of exercise.

Here’s the bottom line finding of the study about the value of frequent bouts of 4 seconds of intense movement throughout the day:

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an effective tool to improve cardiovascular fitness and maximal anaerobic power. Different methods of HIIT have been studied but the effects of repeated maximal effort cycling with very short exercise time (i.e., 4 seconds) and short recovery time (15 to 30 seconds) might suit individuals with limited time to exercise.

Let’s unpack this a bit.

In order to get the cardiovascular benefits of exercise, you don’t need to go run, bike or swim for a half an hour or more; rather, you can do a series of 4 seconds of intense exercise throughout the day.

This could include sprinting up stairs (or walking fast, if that’s all your fitness level can accommodate), skipping rope (or walking in place, lifting your knees as high as you can, if that’s all your fitness level can accommodate), or anything you can think of that you can do in a 4 second burst of intensity that gets your heart racing and muscles pumping.

Such 4 second bursts have an accumulative, beneficial effect on your health and fitness, say the researchers.

How many times must you do these bursts of 4 seconds of intense exercise?

Two or three dozen times a day.

What are the health benefits?

In the study, participants experienced improved total blood volume, VO2peak and maximal anaerobic power.

Specifically, how were these benefits achieved?

Study participants did 30 bouts of 4 seconds of intense exercise (and all-out effort) on a stationary bike interspersed with 15 seconds of rest for a total of 2 minutes of exercise. They completed three sessions of these intervals each week for eight weeks, for a total of 48 minutes of exercise over the two months. They did not otherwise exercise during this time.

(For more info about the study, read NY Times columnist Gretchen Reynolds piece about the study.)


How To Do Your 4 Second Explosion (A Warning)

I’ve already suggested a few different types of exercises you could apply your 4 seconds of effort to, such as sprinting up stairs, on a bike, or simply a burst of running in place. But now I need to underscore that you must be cautious.

Even if you’re accustomed to strenuous exercise, going from two hours of sitting to jumping up and immediately kicking up your heels with wild abandon is a recipe for injury. And if you’re unaccustomed to such exercise, not warming up first will inevitably, eventually, hurt.

Want you need to do is pulse.

For instance:

  • Get off the chair and limber up a bit.
  • Then go do whatever exercise you’ve selected at a slow pace. If it’s running stairs, walk up a flight before sprinting them for 4 seconds. Then return to walking for 15 second or so, then the 4 seconds again. (That’s the “pulse” part.)
  • Repeat as many times as you can comfortably do.
  • Go back to the chair.
  • A couple of hours later, repeat.

If there’s no stairs, try something like this:

4 seconds of intense exercise

Again, don’t begin by hopping — at first just lift your knees up high until you get some blood flowing.

If all your joints are creaky and your best exercise alternative is a bike, you can still apply the pulse sequence suggested above, but rather than take the bike out multiple times in a day, condense the several sessions into one with more rest in between the 4 second effort, if needed.


Got 60 Seconds to Spare?

Jacinto Bonilla, CrossFit devotee

I’ve got something for you overachievers who are willing to commit 60 seconds or more to your health and fitness.

In my post How An Exercise Mindset and A Few Minutes Can Make You Ageless, I present a:

  • 1 minute exercise routine
  • 2 minute exercise routine
  • 5 minute exercise routine
  • 7 minute exercise routine

Pick your poison.

Go check out the “how to” videos by clicking the link above, and be inspired by 77 year old Jacinto Bonilla and 75 year old DeEtte Sauer.

Jacinto Bonilla, the CrossFit senior citizen who can kick ass

Jacinto Bonilla

DeEtte Sauer, swimmer

DeEtte Sauer


Your Takeaway

This has intentionally been among my shortest posts, because I wanted it to be laser-focused on the message that you must move frequently throughout the day if you’re going to have any chance of being healthy and fit in your golden years.

Most of us live sedentary lives. That’s not what our bodies are designed for. We’re designed to move. (Notice those two legs!) So, choose a routine that you’re willing to do consistently, get off your duff, and get moving with vigor!



Last Updated on September 29, 2022 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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