Forget long workouts! Studies find just four minutes of HIIT exercise improves your health

Low volume HIIT exercise keeps your workouts short, plus its good for both your metabolic and heart health

Man completes a HIIT workout at home
(Image credit: Getty)

A lot of people dislike High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) because, well, the clue is in the name, it feels highly demanding. The short bursts of exercise will get you out of breath and working up a sweat with only small periods of rest in-between. But imagine completing a HIIT workout that lasts under ten minutes and you can still improve your health this way. According to science, this is possible...

There's heaps of research out there touting the various health benefits of things like regular strength training using some of the best kettlebells or how good getting your daily steps in can be (we like to keep tabs on our step count via one of the best fitness trackers). 

However, if you struggle to find suitable amounts of time to spend engaging with this kind of exercise, this research published in Journal of Physiology reveals that you may only need to do as little as four minutes of low volume HIIT to keep your health in good form.

Low volume HIIT typically involves less than 15 minutes of high-intensity exercise per session, and this excludes recovery periods. Minus warm-ups and cool-downs, scientists found even just four minutes of HIIT completed three times a week can help to improve your overall health.

After collecting and analyzing over a decade's worth of research in this area, they concluded that low-volume HIIT—despite it involving less time being active—can actually yield similar results to longer forms of exercise, such as 45 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. 

The study's authors revealed in a secondary research paper published in Diabetes Care that four minutes of HIIT completed three times a week for 12 weeks improved blood sugar levels, fat in the liver, and cardiorespiratory fitness in adults who suffer from type 2 diabetes. Additionally, low volume HIIT is also an effective way to target heart health for the better.

Once you nail down this style of interval training and suitable exercises for this then you can create your own four-minute workout. This full-body HIIT workout below lasts ten minutes in total, including the rest periods, and is a great place to start. Fitness instructor and physiotherapist, Lily Sabri, will lead you through the session.

Watch Lily Sabri's Low Volume HIIT Workout

Sabri's short HIIT session involves no jumping exercises so not only is it apartment-friendly but it's also low-impact. This is ideal for anyone who may suffer from weaker joints from a past injury, or from aging. As well as choosing safer forms of physical activity like a low-impact HIIT, some of the best supplements for joints are another good way to help manage pain here.

Moreover, engaging in regular HIIT sessions can also help promote weight loss if this is a goal of yours. Again, this doesn't need to eat up all your free time, for example, this HIIT workout for fat loss only uses five moves.

No matter the volume you choose to exercise at, HIIT targets multiple muscles at once so make sure you're leaving a few minutes to properly cool down. Adding in one of the best foam rollers to the end of your session is a good way to tease out any tensions or tightness in your muscles.

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 

When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.