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Get Fit in 4 Minutes

When it comes to getting in shape, a few minutes can go a long way. A new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology suggests that exercising vigorously for as little as 4 minutes three times a week may be enough to boost fitness levels.

Researchers measured changes in VO2 max (the maximal oxygen uptake, which can be improved through exercise and is a frequently used fitness measure) in 24 otherwise inactive men. Thirteen of them completed four high-intensity intervals of 4 minutes at 90 percent of their max heart rate followed with 3 minutes of active recovery three times a week. The other group performed just one 4-minute bout of vigorous exercise three times a week. After 10 weeks, the men who did four intervals boosted their VO2 max by an average of 13 percent, while the men who completed just one 4-minute session increased their VO2max by an average of 10 percent.

“Since we know that more and more people are inactive and overweight, the kind of improvement in physical fitness that we saw in this study may provide a real boost for inactive people who are struggling to find the motivation to exercise,” says Arnt Erik Tjonna, the lead author of the study.

Though this is great news for all of us who struggle to find time to exercise, there are a few things you should note: The sample size was small, so the results may not be universal. Additionally, the participants in this study weren't regular exercisers, so people who already lead an active lifestyle can’t expect the same results.

Nevertheless, it’s a relief to hear that on especially busy days, a few minutes of sweating can still do your body good. Stumped about how to spend your 4-minute sweat session? Try these activities:

Rowing Machine: Don't overlook this cardio machine—it can blast more calories than a treadmill and also helps build your upper body.

Jump Rope: This childhood pastime works your calves, quads, glutes, abs, forearms, and deltoids. Additionally, jumping rope can boost your agility, coordination, and balance.

Burpees: Probably one of the best exercises you can do, burpees tone your entire body.

Mountain Climbers: To work your core while raising your heart rate, try this abdominal exercise.

As you perform the above exercises, keep in mind that the study participants completed their high-intensity intervals at 90 percent of their max heart rate, so, you may want to strap on a heart rate monitor to ensure that you’re pushing yourself enough.

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