Four Minutes to Fitness? Seriously?

Is squeezing even ten minutes for exercise out of your busy schedule too hard to manage? Well guess what. I’ve got just the program for you! With a mere four minutes a day, you can get a jolt of energy while helping to burn fat, increase endurance, improve balance, lower blood pressure, stabilize your core, and strengthen your muscles. Sound too good to be true?

I sure thought it was. (Remember, I come from the “gym” culture, where guys the size of barn doors spent entire mornings just doing “lats”.) So convincing me you could get anything done at all in four minutes was, let’s say, a bit of a stretch.

And then I tried Burst Training.

Burst Training is one minute of high-intensity exercise, performed four times a day, three times a week—using an amazing multi-tasking piece of machinery invented by exercise physiologist Mark J. Smith, Ph.D. It’s called the X-iser, and it’s a hands-free step machine. Since Burst Training has no rest period, you perform what amounts to a series of one-legged squats, which means you’re simultaneously challenging your aerobic and anaerobic systems. I use the machine regularly and I can tell you it’s without question, one of the hardest and most effective workouts you can do. It gives a whole new meaning to energy efficiency.

Now I know you’re probably skeptical. What can one minute of exercise, even if you do it four times a day, possibly accomplish? Well, think about it. You know that iconic scene in the first Rocky movie where Sylvester Stallone runs the steps of the stadium in Philly? Suppose you did that exhausting, mind-numbingly difficult run every single day. Think you’d get better at it? Think you’d improve your aerobic fitness? Your endurance? Your energy? Let me save you the thinking time: The answer is “yes”. In spades.

In fact, running up stairs is one of the best ways to burn calories, improve cardio conditioning and coordination and increase energy. In the “olden” days when I was a musical director living in the famous Artists Complex in New York City called Manhattan Plaza (where my neighbors included Tennessee Williams, Larry David of Seinfeld fame and the “real” Kramer), I used to run the 45 flights of stairs from bottom to top floor a few times a week. It took less than a minute or two and it was one of the most intense, energizing exercises I ever did. Stair running is the bomb. Problem is, most of us don’t live in 45 flight buildings or near the Rocky stadium in Philly. The Xiser gives you the ability to essentially do the same thing in your living room.

And it doesn’t stop there. Burst training- which is really just a series of short bursts of very high intensity exercise- is one of the most effective ways to exercise for weight loss, health, performance, endurance and energy. And the research backs me up on this. One study in the Feb 10 2005 Journal of Applied Physiology founded that a mere two weeks of as little as 8 minutes a week of burst training doubled the endurance and energy of participants. And a study at Colorado State showed that four minutes on the Xiser burned the same number of calories as twenty minutes of traditional aerobic exercise. Burst training also burns fat for 24 hours after exercise. It basically teaches the body to burn fat more efficiently.

The Xiser allows you to do a number of other exercises besides the standard (and brutal) burst of one minute stair climbing. You can hold weights in your hands. You can do push ups on the steps. You can do all sorts of things, all of which basically come under the heading of “interval training” which I now believe is the most effective way to get in shape, lose fat and increase energy.

The only down side? You’ll have to say goodbye to a lot of excuses that revolve around time.

Find out more about the X-iser here.