Are micro-fitness workouts too good to be true?
A lot of attention is focusing on so-called 4×4′ workouts, where you exercise for four four-minute sessions of high-intensity activity, broken up by three-minute intervals of lesser activity. The intensity of these sessions should be so that you are too breathless to speak more than a few words during the workout.
Jeff Coombes, professor of exercise science at the University of Queensland, said that if you can fit in three of these 4×4 workouts a week you can effectively boost your fitness.
Alternating between high and lesser activity bursts is better than one long continuous push as it keeps your heart rate high. However, now researchers are looking into whether one single burst could be enough.
A small international study compared the 4×4 method versus the single burst method in a group of 26 middle-aged, inactive but otherwise healthy men. Both groups exercised three times per week and after 10 weeks, both groups had boosted their maximal oxygen uptake (known as VO2 Max).
These results suggest that the single burst method of high intensity training could have similar benefits to the 4×4 method of exercise. However, it must be taken into account that the men also included a 10-minute warm-up and 5-minute cool -down in their exercise programs.
If you’re considering trying out high intensity intervals, Coombes recommended a 10-minute warm-up to reduce cardiovascular complications due to sudden strain on the heart. He also advised people to undertake a thorough cool-down to reduce the risk of fainting.
An even more concentrated method, supramaximal training, requires bursts of as little as one minute at the hardest pace possible, followed by an interval of 30-60 seconds’ rest.
Coombes cautioned that while this method is likely to be higher-risk, and more research is needed, it might be suitable for fit, disease-free people who are short on time.