In fitness history, microworkouts have certainly had their 15 minutes of fame. Usually classified as super-quick 5–10-minute high-intensity workout sessions, they sound like an attractive option on days where fitting in a full gym session just isn’t in the cards.
And they certainly have their benefits, especially when it comes to cardiovascular fitness.
“When it comes to healthy hearts, those five-minute workout routines can be very beneficial,” says Noam Tamir, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and founder of TS Fitness in New York City. “But they need to be exercises that are really going to tax your heart and get blood pumping.”
One study found that short bursts of exercise just three times a week helped participants lower blood pressure and improve their VO2 max over the course of 10 weeks.
The theory behind microworkouts is the same as the idea behind high-intensity interval training, which capitalizes on the fact that shorter, high-intensity bursts of exertion (Think: a 30-second sprint) are more effective than longer, low-intensity exercises (Think: walking for 30 minutes).
But, can microworkouts really replace a full-length session when it comes to losing weight?
Not directly, says Tamir. Unless you complete 5–6 microworkouts (spread out) in a day, you won’t burn enough calories to shed pounds. Even the spike in calorie-burning capacity, known as the afterburn, that follows high-intensity exercise won’t add up to much on its own — we’re talking a pound per month on average.
But that doesn’t mean microworkouts can’t help you drop weight for other reasons. A few minutes of intense exercise in the morning can set the tone for a healthier day and lifestyle over time.
“When people put in effort, even if it’s for five minutes, it sets a tone for the day,” says Tamir. “You move more and eat better, and those behaviors can help you lose weight.”
To get the most out of your microworkout minutes, Tamir stresses that exercises should use your full body and require no equipment. Think: high knees, push-up planks and mountain climbers.
Follow his 6-minute circuits below to work up a sweat when you don’t have time for a continuous gym session.
6-Minute Body-Weight Workout
High Knees: Run in place by lifting your knees up past your hips.
Bear Crawls: Start on all fours, with your knees off the ground and under your hips and wrists under your shoulders. Move opposite limbs in a crawling motion for four steps forward and four steps back.
Cross Mountain Climber: In a high plank position, bring your opposite knee toward your opposite elbow, and quickly repeat on the alternate side.
Crab Crawl: In a seated position, place your hands under your shoulders and lift your hips a few inches off the ground. Keep your chest out as you move your opposite limbs four steps forward and four steps back.
- High Knees for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of recovery
- Bear Crawl for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of recovery
- Repeat 3 times
- Cross Mountain Climbers for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of recovery
- Crab Crawl for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of recovery
- Repeat 3 times