Fitness Tips

This 4×4 Workout Structure for Longevity Provides Short Bursts of ‘Good Stress’

Erin Bunch

Photo: Stocksy/ BONNINSTUDIO

Any and all exercise helps to improve your longevity; however, a new study published in the British Medical Journal shows that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the best things you can do in terms of physical fitness in order to achieve a longer healthspan.

The randomized controlled trial, which was conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology‘s Cardiac Exercise Research Group, split 1,567 older Norwegians age 70 to 77 into three groups. One group engaged in moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT, e.g. running, biking, swimming), another engaged in HIIT, and a third exercised at will, at an exertion level somewhere between the two groups. Each segment of the study did their assigned exercises two times per week for five years.

This low-impact HIIT workout with Ash Wilking is easy on your joints:

All groups enjoyed health and longevity benefits of this exercise—the study’s authors noted that in the general population, 90 percent of the 70-77 age bracket was expected to live at least five more years while 95 percent of the study’s participants achieved that expectancy—but the HIIT group’s results were the most pronounced. All-cause mortality was 36% lower in the HIIT group than in the control group and 49% lower than in the MICT group. Mental health benefits were more notable in the HIIT group as well, the study’s authors noted.

The specific HIIT routine utilized was the 4×4 method, which divides each HIIT workout into a 10-minute warm-up period followed by four high-intensity intervals. Each interval consists of one to two minutes of extreme exertion, at about 90 percent of maximum heart rate, followed by a three-minute period at about 60 percent of heart rate. The session then concludes with a cool down period.

This 15-minute HIIT workout with Jes Woods is designed for runners:

Such HIIT workouts may be helpful for reducing morbidity, according to functional medicine expert Frank Lipman, MD, because—as counterintuitive as it may seem—small bursts of stress are actually beneficial to your health. “These spurts of pushing yourself are actually very good for your body because they trigger a lot of these anti aging mechanisms,” he says

No equipment needed for this 25-minute HIIT workout with Charlee Atkins:

And although the idea of HIIT can be daunting for some, it’s a versatile discipline that does not require a one-size-fits-all approach. If your knees aren’t so great or you lower impact workouts for any reason, you can try high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) and/or low-impact HIIT workouts instead of traditional HIIT exercises.

And when you’re ready to introduce weights, try this HIIT workout with Meg Takacs:

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