Intense Exercises That Make a Serious Difference in Just One Minute

box jumps
Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Sorry folks, but "I don't have enough time to exercise," is an excuse that's officially off the table. In a highly publicized study, researchers found that just one minute of highly intense, interval-based exercise is as effective at improving cardiometabolic health as a 45-minute steady-state cardio workout.

Yes, just one minute.

But there is a caveat. Before you decide to sit on the couch for 23 hours and 59 minutes a day, you must understand that this "one minute" workout was actually three 20-second all-out intervals that took place over the course of a 10-minute routine.

So go ahead and sit on the couch for 23 hours and 50 minutes a day (I jest, don't actually do that), and carve out a 10-minute block of time for exercise to give it your all. This isn't the type of pussy-footed workout protocol where you can casually wander through a series of moves. To actually benefit from a "one-minute workout," you need to work hard.

The rules of engagement

To mimic the workout set up by researchers in the study, it's important to remember this was a cardiovascular routine. Study participants performed all training sessions on a specialized indoor bicycle, but there's no need for you to saddle up your own set of wheels when trying it in the field. Instead, pick your poison and frame your workout around your favorite form of cardio: running, cycling, rowing, jumping rope, or stair climbing are all great options, but you can choose pretty much anything you can sustain for several minutes at a time.

Once you've made your selection, the workout will go like this:

  • 0:00-2:59, Warm-up: Start your preferred form of cardio, gradually increasing your intensity to a moderate level
  • 3:00-3:19, Sprint: Perform your first all-out exercise, choosing from the list provided below
  • 3:20-5:19, Active recovery: Continue your preferred form of cardio at a low intensity
  • 5:20-5:39, Sprint: Perform your second all-out exercise, choosing from the list provided below
  • 5:40-7:39, Active recovery: Continue your preferred form of cardio at a low intensity
  • 7:40-7:59, Sprint: Perform your third all-out exercise, choosing from the list provided below
  • 8:00-10:00, Cool-down: Continue your preferred form of cardio, gradually reducing your intensity

Nine perfect interval exercises

The key to the perfect routine comes down to those 20-second, all-out sprint intervals. Think about Olympians who run 200-meter races -- those races last just about 20 seconds, and you better believe the athletes are giving it all they've got. That's basically what these sprint intervals should feel like when you're turning it on; by the end of the 20 seconds, you've got nothing left to give. Choose any of the following equipment-free exercises to fulfill your one-minute workout.

cardio sprints
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Cardio sprints

The most straightforward of the bunch, all you have to do is ramp up the intensity of your preferred form of cardio and let the sweat fly. If you're jogging, pick up the pace. If you're cycling, pedal harder. If you're jumping rope, spin that rope faster. Don't hold back -- 20 seconds isn't long, so take yourself to the limit of what you think is possible. When each 20-second interval is done, simply slow back down again for your two minutes of active recovery.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist


It's the exercise you love to hate. Go ahead and start in a standing position before squatting down to place your hands on the ground in front of your feet. Hop your legs behind you into a high-plank position, and immediately hop them back to their original position. From your crouch, jump up into the air reaching your hands toward the sky before landing with your knees and hips slightly bent. Immediately squat back down again to continue the exercise.

mountain climbers
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Mountain climbers

Start in a high push-up position, your palms under your shoulders, your legs extended behind you. Draw one knee toward your chest, planting the ball of your foot on the ground. From here, hop both feet into the air, switching their positions, extending the bent leg and bending the extended leg. As soon as both feet hit the ground, immediately hop them back into the air, switching positions again. Continue as fast as you can for the full 20 seconds.

skater lunges
Cole Saladino/Thrillist


Start standing, knees and hips slightly bent in a "ready" position. Hop your right foot laterally to the right and swing your left leg behind your right foot as you simultaneously swing your left hand across your body, bending forward at the hips to touch your left hand to your right foot. Immediately reverse the movement by hopping your left foot laterally to the left, this time swinging your right leg behind your left foot as you swing your right hand across your body to touch your right hand to your left foot. The result is a speed skating-like continuous and fluid movement. Continue for the duration.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Jumping lunges

Stand with feet hip-distance apart and step forward with your right foot to lower yourself into a lunge. Keep your weight in your right heel, your knees aligned with your toes, but not protruding in front of your toes. After bending both knees and lowering into a lunge, press forcefully through both legs, springing into the air as you switch the position of your feet, landing with your left leg in front, your right leg behind you. Land "softly" with your knees slightly bent on the balls of your feet before lowering your left heel to the ground. Perform another lunge before again hopping into the air, scissoring your legs. Continue this movement for the duration.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist


Stand with feet together, knees slightly bent, hips pressed backward, elbows bent with your hands in front of you, as if you were holding ski poles. Keeping your legs together, hop up into the air, twisting your lower body to the right while keeping your torso forward-facing. Land softly on the balls of your feet, knees slightly bent, before immediately hopping back into the air, this time twisting your lower body as far as you can to the left, while keeping your torso forward-facing. Continue this lower-body twisting action with each jump.

clapping pushups
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Clapping push-ups

By adding a plyometric hop to your standard push-up, you ramp up the intensity for serious upper-body cardio. Perform the push-up on your knees or your toes, starting with your arms extended, palms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows, lowering your chest toward the floor. When your elbows form a 90-degree angle, forcefully press through your palms, springing them into the air. As your hands come off the ground, bring them together in a clap before returning them to their starting position, landing "softly" with elbows slightly bent to help absorb impact.

plank up-downs
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Plank up-downs

Start in a high-plank position, palms under shoulders, body extended in a straight line from heels to head. Lower one forearm to the ground, followed by your other forearm so you're in a low-plank position. Immediately reverse the movement, returning to a high plank by planting one palm, then the other to press yourself to start. Continue this up-down movement for the duration.

box jumps
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Box jumps

Using a sturdy bench or step at least 12in tall, stand facing the object, feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent. Squat down, pressing your hips back as you swing your arms behind you. Press forcefully through your feet, springing up into the air as you jump up and forward onto the center of the step or bench. Step down, one foot at a time, and immediately perform the jump again.

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Laura Williams is an exercise physiologist and fitness writer who strongly believes in doing any exercise you'll actually stick with, whether that's one minute of all-out work or 30 minutes of something moderate. Pick your pleasure and tell her about it on Twitter: @girlsgonesporty.