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Photo: Greg Kessler

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How little exercise can I actually get away with?
I hear you—with our busy lives, finding time to squeeze in an hour at the gym can be more challenging than the workout itself. But it seems as if science has caught on to our dilemma: In the past few years, researchers have published several studies promising fast results from shorter workouts. A recent low is a four-minute routine that after ten weeks was shown to produce the same improvements in blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, as a 16-minute workout. But take note of the fine print: The participants in the study also completed a ten-minute warm-up jog and a five-minute cooldown walk, so the total workout clocked in at 19 minutes. Intensity mattered, too. The exercisers did that four-minute burst at 90 percent of their maximum heart rate—the equivalent of rapidly climbing six to ten flights of stairs. If that kind of routine doesn't appeal to you, you're not going to stick with it—in which case you won't see any benefit. The important thing is to find an activity you enjoy. Aim for at least 30 minutes daily; if you're pressed for time, consider splitting your workout into 15-minute blocks.