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Tabata benefits more than just your body — it saves you loads of time, too.

If you find that you’re always strapped for time and struggle to fit a workout into your daily routine, you might seriously want to consider looking into tabata as more effective alternative to your longer workouts.

Amazingly, this unique and increasing popular style of training only takes just about four minutes to complete!

tabata benefits

What Is Tabata?

Women working out

According to WebMD, Tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that can boost fat loss, improve glucose metabolism and supercharge your athletic performance.

It was developed Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team of scientists at the Tokyo-based National Institute of Fitness.

The scientists tested a group of athletes who worked out at moderate intensity for an hour, five days a week while a different group worked out at high intensity for just four hours and 20 seconds, four times a week.

After six weeks, the moderate intensity group had improved their aerobic systems but didn’t show much improvement in their anaerobic systems.

The high-intensity group, on the other hand, improved their aerobic systems significantly more than the moderate intensity group and even saw a 28-percent improvement in their anaerobic systems.

How Tabata Is Different from Traditional HIIT

Woman jumping

HIIT involves short bursts of intense training that last about 1 to 2 minutes followed by periods of rest that are usually about 30 seconds to two minutes long.

According to the American Council on Exercise, HIIT is performed at a submaximal level where you’re working at 80 to 95 percent your maximum heart rate.

Depending on how many rounds you do and how long you warm up/cool down, a HIIT session usually lasts anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes.

When you do Tabata, the style is the same as regular HIIT in that it involves short bursts of activity followed by rest periods, but you crank up the intensity even higher so you’re working at 100 percent your maximum heart rate or higher for an extremely short period.

Tabata involves pushing the absolute hardest you can for just 20 seconds, and then only resting for 10 seconds.

When those 10 seconds are up, you go at it again until you’ve completed eight rounds. In total, it should only take you about four minutes.

Unexpected HIIT/Tabata Benefits

Woman doing exercise

It’s More Enjoyable Than Moderate-Intensity Exercise

Would you rather exercise comfortably for a longer period of time or push yourself to your max over a shorter period of time?

Despite the more physically demanding nature of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that’s often characterized by shortness of breath, leg pain and dramatic fatigue, it turns out that the majority of people tend to prefer it over moderate-intensity continuous exercise (MICT).

In a study, researchers examined participants’ enjoyment responses to both HIIT and MICT.

Unlike MICT, which doesn’t involve pushing yourself as hard as you can and is typically performed at a steady state, HIIT involves exerting yourself far past comfortable exertion levels in very quick bursts followed by short, active rest periods.

Twelve healthy, active men and women who participated in the study first underwent VO2 max testing to determine their personalized activity workloads appropriate for moderate-intensity and high-intensity exercise.

Each participant was then asked to perform two exercise trials of either HIIT or MICT.

For the HIIT test, the participants completed eight 60-second rounds of intense activity at 85 percent maximal workload with 60 seconds of an active rest period following each round.

For the MICT test, participants completed a 20-minute period of steady state cycling at 45 percent maximal workload.

After each exercise session, the participants were asked to document their enjoyment by completing the Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale (PACES).

Eleven out of 12 participants showed higher enjoyment responses to HIIT in comparison to MICT.

The researchers say that higher enjoyment was experienced for HIIT because it can be completed in a much shorter amount of time than MICT as a more efficient form of exercise.

The constantly changing stimulus involved with cycling through activity bursts and rest periods also contributed to greater enjoyment.

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According to an interview published by PsyPost with the study’s corresponding author, Todd A. Astorino, previous research only vaguely suggested that HIIT could be a more enjoyable form of exercise, which gave him and his team reason to do further testing on enjoyment responses.

He also mentioned that only 25 percent of all American adults get the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, so if HIIT is typically more enjoyable, ramping up the intensity and shortening the exercise period could possibly help people stick to their long-term fitness goals.

It Cuts Down on the Time Needed to Spend Working Out

The CDC states that one minute of high-intensity activity is equal to two minutes of moderate-intensity activity.

So, essentially, you could cut your weekly recommended amount of physical activity in half just by switching from moderate-intensity exercise to high-intensity exercise.

Alternatively, you could do a mix of both.

Types of Moves to Do to Enhance Your Tabata Benefits

Woman doing plank

One of the best things about Tabata is that you can really make it your own and use almost any type of exercise move that already works with HIIT.

You can do pushups, squats, rows, situps, mountain climbers, high knees, burpees, jumping jacks, punches combined with squats, and so much more.

Since you only have 20 seconds per burst, stick with just one move until the 10-second rest period.

Remember that you’re supposed to really give it your all by going as intense as you can physically handle.

If you did it right, you’ll feel the exhaustion setting in pretty early and you should be completely spent by the end of the eighth round, unable to do any more.

4-Minute Sample Tabata Workout to Try

Ready to give Tabata a try?

Here’s a 4-minute workout that’s great for beginners.

Tabata workout

Circuit 1/Minute 1

  1. 20 seconds of high knees
  2. 10 seconds of rest
  3. 20 seconds of tricep chops
  4. 10 seconds of rest

Circuit 3/Minute 3

  1. 20 seconds of leg raises
  2. 10 seconds of rest
  3. 20 seconds of pushups
  4. 10 seconds of rest

Circuit 2/Minute 2

  1. 20 seconds of slow climbers
  2. 10 seconds of rest
  3. 20 seconds of lunges
  4. 10 seconds of rest

Circuit 4/Minute 4

  1. 20 seconds of flutter kicks
  2. 10 seconds of rest
  3. 20 seconds of plank
  4. 10 seconds of rest

Warning: Tabata Can Be Really Hard, So Pace Yourself

Tired woman working out

Anyone who has ever gone all-out with Tabata knows that it feels like the longest four minutes of their life.

It’s not supposed to be even a little bit easy — that’s why it’s so short.

According to an interview with Dr. Izumi Tabata published on Muscle & Fitness, the body responds to that huge amount of stress you put on it by revving up its capacity to increase oxygen uptake and essentially burns the same amount of calories in that short amount of time (plus an extra after-burn effect) as you would if you did an hour of steady-state exercise like cycling or jogging.

Despite the huge Tabata benefits, I personally wouldn’t think it’s the best idea to go straight from a couch potato lifestyle to this type of workout.

It’s probably worth working up to this kind of intensity by starting out with walking and more moderately paced forms of cardio first.

Making sure you know how to maintain proper form for all the moves beforehand is important so that you can avoid injury.

Tabata is a fantastic workout for those with busy schedules (and those who aren’t afraid to face the discomfort for a few excruciating minutes).

You can check out the official Tabata website for more on finding classes in your area and more on Tabata benefits.

tabata benefits

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Having struggled with diet and fitness since her early teens, Elise spent most of her life cycling between periods of extreme exercise/food restriction and binge eating/burnout. After suffering metabolic damage back in 2013, she began to research how hormones and metabolism affect weight loss and body composition. She has since achieved the most hourglass-like figure she's ever had and continues to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle eating everything in moderation and exercising regularly.
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