Low Concept

The One-Second Workout

A guide to getting fit in literally no time at all.

Young woman doing stretching exercise on mat in gym.

Too much effort

Photo by Siri Stafford/Thinkstock

Work by scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and other institutions shows, for instance, that even a few minutes of training at an intensity approaching your maximum capacity produces molecular changes within muscles comparable to those of several hours of running or bike riding.—The New York Times, “The Scientific 7-Minute Workout,” May 9, 2013

Thanks to an ingratiating new study, we may finally be closer to answering that ever-popular question regarding our health and fitness: How little exercise can I get away with? The answer, it seems, may be four minutes.—The New York Times, “The 4-Minute Workout,” June 19, 2013.

The 2½-Minute Workout: Want to get healthy while catching every second of NBC’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night lineups? Not to worry! With the 2½-minute workout—timed to coincide with the length of a commercial break—you’ll get fit and get back in your seat in time for yet another reminder that America does, in fact, have talent. As soon as Parks and Rec goes to break, leap from your chair and dash at full speed to your refrigerator. With smooth, forceful motions, open and close the door several times, until you realize there’s nothing inside but orange juice. Grab the container with both hands, lift it above your head, and shake vigorously as you run around your kitchen shouting, “There was leftover pizza in here earlier! Seriously, who ate the pizza?” Then, jump as high as you can, grab a glass from the top shelf, and dash back to your seat in time for some much-needed prime-time laughs! Repeat three times per half hour, until the news comes on or somebody replaces the pizza.   

The One-Minute Workout: Sixty seconds, 60 different exercises. You’ll need a bench, a medicine ball, a willing partner, and an appetite for fun! Ready? Go: Left jab, right jab, left kick, right kick. Shimmy to your left, shimmy to your right, grab your partner, hold him tight. Jazz hands. Power jazz hands. Wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care. Squat, rise, drum on your thighs. Drum on your partner’s thighs. Apologize, apologize! Step up, step down, twist your hips, spin around. Leapfrog your partner. Have your partner leapfrog you. One-second tickle fight! Do a jumping jack, then a reverse jumping jack, then a Spanish jumping jack. Tilt your head and shout “Ole!” Run in place. Shuttle run in place. Pretend you’re at Squaw Valley skiing down KT-22. Shift your weight right, shift your weight left. Avoid those trees! Simulate a wipeout. Spring to your feet, grab the medicine ball. Toss it. Catch it. Pound it like a conga drum. Lift it above your head. Tuck it under your arm. Strike 18 different variations of the Heisman Trophy pose. Collapse in exhaustion. (Note: If you attempt this workout, please film it and send me the video.)

The 30-Second Workout: Thirty seconds is the length of an average elevator ride. Try this the next time you’re heading up to your office. Enter the elevator and jab the button for your floor. As other people file in, jab the buttons for their floors, while nodding your head rhythmically in response to their mumbled thank yous. At every floor, as the doors open, dash out to let people exit, then dash back inside and continue your frenzied jabbing, this time of the door close button. If somebody drops a pen, break out some deep-knee bends and squat down to retrieve it; if nobody drops a pen, break out the deep-knee bends anyway, claiming that you dropped a quarter. Finish the workout by grasping the side rails tightly while jumping up and down and yelling, “We’re all going to die! We’re all going to die!” at the top of your lungs. Exit briskly. Shake things up once a week by taking the stairs.

The Seven-Second Workout: Fun fact: Broadcast radio operates on a seven-second delay. The seven-second workout uses the secrets of professional radio hosts to promote aerobic fitness—and all you need to participate is a phone, your lungs, and some ginned-up outrage. Dial the number of your favorite call-in radio show. Say that your name is Pat, that you live in the suburbs, and that you’re calling because you’re sick and tired of those lousy fat cats mucking things up. (Every radio show, in every market, is susceptible to talk about “fat cats.”) Once you’re on the air, start yelling and swearing while you stamp your feet and pound a tabletop with your free hand. Go until you hear a dial tone or the radio program unexpectedly cuts to a commercial. Hang up and listen to those pounds melting away.

The One-Second Workout: Do a crunch.

The Nanosecond Workout: Find a sympathetic physicist and get him to bombard you with “good health rays.” Warning: Physicists can be squirrelly. If you feel ill after this workout, you might have been bombarded with “bad health rays.” Consult Neil deGrasse Tyson immediately. Be sure to ask him if he took your pizza.