Getting your daily dose of exercise no longer requires getting up at dawn and spending an hour on the elliptical. New research shows that there are more efficient ways to get fitter with short bursts of exercises that work to help train your heart and body and allow you to burn 30 percent more fat–even a full day afterward.

Making your daily fitness ritual fun and more doable (and ditching the mind-numbing cardio sessions) means that you get fitter without going for so long that you risk injury. These quick sessions require hard work in short bursts to get results.

New study: 4 seconds is enough to achieve major fitness gains and burn fat

In an encouraging study, reported in The New York Times, volunteers were asked to drink a high-fat shake and then hop on a spin bike and pedal as hard as they could for 4 seconds, then rest for 45 seconds, and then do it again, repeating this sequence (of 4 seconds on, 45 seconds off) five times.

The study participants did these quick sprints once every hour for eight hours for a total of 160 seconds in one day. They then returned to the lab the next day and the surprising findings were that they were still burning more fat than on days after sitting without sprinting.

A full day later, their fat burning was 30 percent higher, and their sprints were having an afterburn effect that even the researchers had not anticipated. The study was done last spring at the University of Texas by a team led by an esteemed sports expert, Ed Coyle, a professor of kinesiology and health education at UT. The study concluded that when time is tight and you spend most of the day sitting, adding in quick sprints is enough to improve how the body metabolizes fat and helps us stay fit. Building cardiovascular fitness comes faster than we could have imagined.

Start your day with short sprints and repeat every hour for best results

This means that whether you run up a flight of stairs five times or sprint 50-yard dashes, or run from light post to light post five times or do anything that exerts yourself fully (jumping jacks, jump rope, or other dynamic exercises to get your heart rate up for several seconds, you don't have to be zoned out on a stair stepper for 45 minutes or longer to see major benefits. Just do bite-sized exertions.

Two Days a Week, Add Resistance Training for Strengthening and to Fight Aging

You don't need a full gym or even weights to strength train. To fight age-related muscle loss that begins at age 30, you need to add in resistance training at least two days a week, according to studies that show both men and women benefit equally from strength training. You can use 2 large jugs filled with sand or water, or buy a pack of resistance bands to loop around your thighs as you squat, or duck walk, for three minutes in the morning. Add in push-ups and easy fast strength moves that tone every major muscle group, like those from Berto Calkins.

Walking Just 11 Minutes a Day Counteracts the Damage of Sitting For Hours

If you sit all day, like many of us glued to our computers, try walking around the neighborhood for just eleven minutes to undo those hours of sitting in your chair, or driving to do errands. A new study found that while more walking is better for us, the benefits of 11 minutes of walking a day appear to be a significant threshold. So while walking for longer may be a joy and is definitely healthy, to get the minimum amount of fitness out of a healthy walk, stay out there for 11 minutes at the very least.

Stay Hydrated for best effects and to build fitness, immunity, mood, and focus

Studies have found that when you've dehydrated your mood plummets, you lose focus, your head throbs, and your immune system becomes compromised. It's even more important to work on staying hydrated in chilly or cold weather, since you are not sweating as much outdoors, and you may not realize that you're losing fluids with every step.

Hydrating directly after a workout is the key to your recovery. Choose a drink with benefits. For a beverage that packs nutritious plant-based ingredients with calcium and iron, try Laird Superfood Hydrate made with freeze-dried coconut water. This natural blend of coconut water and Aquamin, calcified sea algae is naturally rich in calcium with trace minerals in varying amounts.

For More Healthy Rituals:

Try a Mindfulness Practice to Start Your Day Calm

Start Your Morning with Simple Stretches to Boost Circulation and Focus.

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