The future of shopping malls

SHOPPING isn’t what it used to be. Prior to the Internet age, shopping meant going to the mall and buying stuff there. These days, a lot of people, especially the young, buy what they want online.

It makes sense as there are a lot of benefits to shopping online. The range of products is usually larger, the prices lower and items are delivered to your doorstep (often times the delivery is free). What’s there not to like?

It’s not surprising then that shopping malls are facing tough times. This is a situation that’s happening around the world, not just here. Experts say, one antidote to this problem is to position the mall as more of a social destination than merely a place to buy things.

Young people in particular are attracted to places where they can have a fun experience with their friends. They like to post selfies that can go viral on social media and attract lots of comments. Department stores aren’t exactly fertile ground for viral content. Mall management needs to think in terms of what types of experiences would generate the most social media buzz.

You can’t attract millennials through products alone. You have to tempt them with experiences worth sharing on social media. That means better food, entertainment and recreational options — things that they cannot experience online. Then of course, while they’re in the mall, they may just do some shopping.

Some malls in the US are already going heavily into this concept offering recreational amenities such as ice-skating, playgrounds, extreme sports games, yoga classes, exotic food tasting and various other activities that can only be experienced in person.


It’s also crucial to enhance and extend the customer experience through digital means. One mall that’s leading the way on that is Mall of America in Minnesota. It’s the biggest shopping mall in the US in terms of number of retail outlets and floor space.

It has big anchor stores such as Macy’s and Nordstrom. But it also has unique feature attractions such as Nickelodeon Universe, an indoor theme park with several roller coaster rides and miniature golf course with 18-holes.

There’s also Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium where customers can travel through a 90-metre tunnel to view up to 4,500 live sea creatures.

A new attraction is FlyOver America which utilises cutting-edge virtual flight ride technology and involves special effects such as wind, scents, mist and moving seats to give the customer a real sensation of flying.

Mall of America is also the most digitally-savvy mall in the world. In 2013, it launched an initiative called ESP, which stands for Enhanced Service Portal, designed to facilitate smooth communication and engagement with guests through digital means but mainly through social media.

ESP is staffed by eight personnel, three of whom are on duty at all times during retail hours. The unit is located next to the mall’s phone operators and security department so that these departments can exchange information seamlessly.

The mall offers customer service through what it calls a “digital concierge”. It has signages all over the mall encouraging customers to ask questions, give feedback or register complaints digitally through text messaging, webchat and social media.

ESP team members respond to requests for information, reports of faulty facilities, complaints on parking and more.

Nothing seems too trivial for the team to respond to. This includes giving suggestions on where to eat and even making reservations for guests if they request it.

If customers are looking for a specific product, the team will check with the relevant store to see if the item is in stock.

Where possible, they can even ask the store to hold onto the item for the customer.

The team receives about 2,500 digital conversations per month and they try to respond to each message within 90 seconds.

They also operate in a digital command centre with several big-screen monitors on the wall which allows them to monitor all incoming communication as well as every mention of the mall on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

The mall has even geared itself up to know when people are posting stuff even if they don’t mention the mall’s name.

They do this through the use of a programme called Geofeedia, which displays on a map where people are inside the mall when they are on social media. A user’s location-based service on their smartphone has to be on in order for this to work. Shoppers can turn that off if they don’t want the mall to see what they’re posting.

While many big corporations these days closely monitor social media channels to respond to customer questions and complaints, Mall of America takes it a step further by proactively initiating conversations even when none is expected.


Whenever someone mentions Mall of America, ESP team members will engage them in some way. It could be a text reply or it could be a GIF or meme that’s appropriate.

To make the engagement more personalised rather than generic, team members will even take the trouble to quickly go through the person’s social media profile to gain a better understanding of who that person is so that they

can engage with him in a more meaningful way.

When marketing consultant Frederic Gonzalo travelled to Minneapolis to give a keynote speech at the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEXinMN), he posted a short video from Mall of America on his Instagram feed and was pleasantly surprised to see that the mall had actually responded to his post on the enormity of the mall.

“5.5 million square feet, this @MallofAmerica is huuuuuuge!” Gonzalo posted. Shortly, afterwards, the mall replied: “We quite agree, Frederic! Did you know that 7 Yankee Stadiums can fit inside the Mall?! We’re happy to have you visit for #TBEXinMN!”

If ESP team members notice some customers posting updates that indicate that they’re confused about something, they’ll jump into the conversation and offer some help.

And if someone tweets that they’re celebrating their birthday or anniversary, team members have the discretion to tweet back and surprise them with a gift voucher, movie pass or some other freebies. It’s an effective way to delight the customer.

ESP is also useful for security purposes. In monitoring social media chatter, the team sometimes notices things that require further investigation as well as celebrity appearances which could require some crowd control.

Minor infractions include posts of people smoking in the bathroom. Sometimes people even post pictures of items they’ve shoplifted, not realising that they’re actually giving themselves away.

A couple of years ago, ESP identified participants in a fight that occurred in one of the mall’s stores by analysing Geofeedia data about YouTube posts. The participants were later arrested.

Geofeedia is also useful for identifying celebrities in the mall, including those who don’t actively announce their presence.

The mall often doesn’t know about such visits until pictures by fans start surfacing on social media. That was how the mall discovered that Charlie Watts, the drummer for the Rolling Stones, was on its premises one summer.

It should be said that Mall of America’s ESP together with its digital concierge concept is the gold standard as far as digital transformation of a mall is concerned.

Not every mall owner will want to invest that much money and resources into setting up a digital nervous system for their mall. But they can certainly borrow some of the ideas from Mall of America and perhaps do a smaller scale version of it.

The basic idea is to make a visit to the mall a more experiential activity that goes beyond just shopping and to enhance the customer experience through social media.

The reality is that social media is a part of our everyday life. People are going to post stuff about their daily experiences, including when they’re about to visit a mall, when they’re in the mall and after they’ve left the mall.

With Mall of America, not only has it decided to be part of that conversation but it’s also turning such engagements into a memorable experience for its customers.


A video future for photographers

LAST week, I wrote about professions that will become obsolete in the near future. Some professions may not become obsolete but will instead evolve to include a wider spectrum of skills.

Journalism is a good example. Back when I started as a rookie reporter, it was possible for journalists to focus just on writing news reports.

We didn’t have to worry about shooting pictures, much less recording audio or video clips. There was no social media or even news portals at the time. So, we had the luxury of just reporting the news.

That all changed with the emergence of news websites. All of a sudden, we needed to provide more than just words. Websites need multimedia content. Then came social media and multimedia content became all the more important. Today, journalists need to multitask.

But journalists are not alone in this. There was a time when an insurance agent could just focus on selling insurance. Now, they have to sell mutual funds, wills and all kinds of financial products.


Photographers who solely focus on stills will soon find it harder and harder to get work. That’s because these days, there’s an expectation that photographers should also deliver videos for their clients.

There was actually a time not so long ago, when people getting married would hire separate crews to shoot pictures and to record their happy day on video.

That’s because photos and videos were considered different industries and they were handled by different teams. These days, nobody does that anymore. When they hire the photography team, they expect that the team should produce the video as well.

You could probably trace the convergence of stills and videos back to 2008 when both Canon and Nikon came out with DSLR cameras that could shoot videos as well.

Initially the video function was not utilised by stills photographers. But within a few years, that changed dramatically. The rise of social media also saw the rise in demand for video content.

Now, with high speed broadband widely available and social media being a vital aspect of our daily lives, there’s no doubting that video needs to be a part of any photographer’s repertoire. Clients aren’t just asking for video, they are expecting it.

I cite wedding photography as an example where clients would expect the photographer to supply both the stills and the videos. But you could easily imagine this being the same for other types of photography.

If a restaurant hires a photographer to do food shots, they would surely want promotional video clips to post on their website and social media platforms.

If a company hires a photographer for a fashion shoot, again they would want some video clips to post online.


In this day and age, still photography isn’t enough. You’ve got to offer videography too. Sure, there might be some legendary photographers who refuse to branch into video and would still be in demand because of their strong branding and reputation.

However, those photographers are few and far in between. I doubt Annie Leibovitz will have any problems getting clients without having to resort to offering video services but how many Annie Leibovitzes are there out there?

Many of my friends who do photography for a living have indeed started to offer video services although there are a few holdouts. And the reason for their hesitation to get into videography is their fear of having to learn something new and complex.

But it’s the very complexity of video that acts as a barrier to entry against amateurs who are always more than ready to slash prices.

Have you noticed that wedding photographers can no longer charge as much as they used to? That’s because every Tom, Dick and Harry with some halfway decent photography skills can offer their services at a fraction of the cost and there will be many takers.

It’s a lot harder to do the same with videography where there are many new skills that a photographer will need to pick up.

For sure some skills learnt in photography like lighting and composing a shot would come in handy. But there’s a lot of new things to learn, most notably, how to deal with sound which is an important element of videography.


Perhaps the area where there is much to learn lies in post-production. For stills, most photographers use Adobe Photoshop for editing purposes.

For video, there are many types of software to choose from, such as Adobe Premiere, Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and Sony’s Vegas Pro, and the process of editing video is far more complex than editing pictures.

It’s not just about ensuring that the audio and video are clear but also that there’s a good flow and seamless continuity to them.

Videographers also need to know how to carve out strong narratives, something they don’t have to do with still pictures. This is a brand new skill set that’s not easy to acquire and will naturally take a lot of time and effort to learn.

One option is to start collaborating with others who specialise in these things. While stills photography can be done as a one-man show, it’s much harder to do that with video.

A videographer will usually have people helping him with lighting, sound and manning the second camera. After the shoot, the videographer will need a good editor who can transform the raw material into something polished.

“Video is still perceived as something difficult to do and indeed the process is a lot more complex than shooting stills,” says Tom Hayton, a photographer who got into videography several years ago and now offers both services to his clients.

“But that’s why there’s money to be made. It’s a growth market.”

Of course, to be a pro, you’d need to be able to produce content that’s significantly better than what can be produced by an amateur.

So you have to stay ahead of the curve by honing your skills and keeping up to speed with trends and technological advancements, adds Hayton.


All this sounds very complicated but it’s all necessary too.

According to Hayton, who started his photography career in Malaysia but is now based in the

UK, three branches of professional stills photography are likely to disappear in the not-to-distant future.

They are wedding, events and sports photography. And the reason is simply the advances made in camera technology.

“High-end video cameras today can yield excellent stills — taken from video — and it stands to reason that in time this too would be the case with lower-end equipment,” he says.

In other words, in the future a company could just hire a video crew to shoot a particular event and then get an editor to extract stills from the high-quality video shot. This spells trouble for stills-only photographers.

However, in every crisis there’s an opportunity. This actually applies very well to the situation with photography.

Those who welcome the change and incorporate videography into their portfolio will thrive.

Meanwhile, those who stubbornly refuse to do so will soon find it very hard to even survive.


The future of jobs

LAST week, I wrote about products that will disappear in the near future. But it’s not just gadgets and equipment that technology will render obsolete. Some types of jobs will go the way of the Dodo bird too.

The most obvious vulnerable jobs are those involving manual labour.

For decades already, factories are being automated and this will only gather pace going forward until one day much of the factory floor will be occupied by robots, with only a few human supervisors.

Agriculture is another industry where automation has been having a big impact for decades and with each passing year, more and more farming work is getting done by machines.

The writing’s been on the wall for manufacturing and agriculture for a long time already.

A relatively new development however, is e-commerce.

Initially, people in Malaysia were wary of using their credit cards online but AirAsia (where tickets can only be bought online) and Lazada (our local answer to Amazon) have made online transactions mainstream.

Today, many people love to buy things online. There’s more variety, prices are usually cheaper and delivery is often free. What’s there not to like?

As more and more people shop online, the need for retail workers will naturally diminish. In any event, cashiers can very easily be replaced with machines that handle credit cards and cash. Some eating places in Singapore have already started experimenting with that.

Something even more recent is the auto industry’s focus on self-driving cars.

Practically every major car maker has a self-driving car programme and even non-auto-industry tech companies like Google and Apple have an interest in this.

Self-driving cars are for real and they will populate the streets within a decade or so. Naturally, taxi, bus, truck and even Uber/Grab drivers will be affected as transportation become increasingly autonomous.

You would think something high-touch like teaching would be future proof but think again.

The Internet is a treasure trove of information and it has given rise to a new generation of autodidacts.

There was a time when the only way to specialise in a particular skill was to study under a teacher. Now, with e-learning, you can learn practically anything you want to.

There are numerous websites devoted to self-study but the best are Khan Academy, and Udemy.

Khan Academy is very academic in nature and is designed to help students learn math and science. is an e-learning pioneer with lots of high-quality technical and business courses. Because its instructors are drawn from the industry, the focus is on practical knowledge rather than academic matters.

The last one, Udemy, has courses that span the whole gamut of topics. Like, it is not very academic either.

Services like these, which will only become more and more prevalent, will eat into the teaching profession.

In recent years, we have seen an increase in home-schooling. Usually these involve tutors or sending the children to tuition centres instead of schools.

One can easily imagine the tutors and tuition centres being replaced by sites like Khan Academy and probably some local start-ups that can offer e-learning modules for the more localised topics like history and civics classes.

Even in Malaysia, we are seeing e-learning taking hold in the corporate sector.

I recently spoke to a friend who is involved in the workshop/training industry.

According to her, business has become more challenging with many corporations turning to the likes of Udemy as a source of e-learning for their staff rather than spending money on workshops.

As you can see, many industries will be affected, and not just blue collar ones. Many types of office work will be eliminated in the future.

Of course, this will be somewhat offset by new types of jobs including many that we probably can’t imagine because the technology has arrived yet.

When I look back at my time at the university, nobody would have known what you meant if you talked about jobs like mobile app developer, social media marketer, big data analyst, augmented reality programmer or drone operator. Today, these are the hottest jobs around.

So it’s not that jobs will go away. They will just change and sometimes in ways that we can’t anticipate.

When it comes to future work, it’s not about survival of the fittest but survival of the most adaptable.

While it’s hard to predict with any kind of accuracy what kinds of jobs will be in demand in the future, there are a few best practices that will help to make your career more future proof.

1. Participate in the sharing economy

AirBnB has made it possible for anyone to offer their homes for daily rent. Previously, if you had property to rent out, there was really only one option, which was a long-term rental agreement with a tenant.

While this generates steady income, the rent is usually fairly low, perhaps enough to cover your monthly loan instalment. To make money from renting out an apartment or house, it’s much better to rent by the day. AirBnB has shown a whole legion of people that this is indeed very viable.

What AirBnB has done for homes could potentially be applied to all sorts of things. Imagine the possibilities.

Imagine applying the same principle with other things you own, like a car.

Tesla, the famous electric carmaker, has plans to let its customers rent out their vehicles to generate extra cash. And in the near future, when driverless cars are working well, you could even become an Uber driver without having to drive yourself. Just put the autonomous car to work on your behalf!

2. Engage in continuous learning

Even with new economy jobs, don’t expect to be able to secure a job for life. Those days are gone.

With the ways things are going, be prepared for a “gig” economy instead, where work is done by freelancers.

To stay relevant, you’ll need to constantly upgrade yourself. That means making full use of e-learning to constantly enhancing existing skills and acquiring new skills.

These days there are more e-learning options but to engage in continuous learning is not an easy thing. There’s an opportunity cost involved.

Most e-learning websites are commercial entities and thus cost money to use (Khan Academy is an exception).

To constantly learn new skills will require regular investment in learning modules.

Learning new things also takes time, which could potentially be used for doing work.

Putting aside time to learn something new literally means giving up an income-earning opportunity. But you must be willing to do that to stay current and relevant to the ever-changing job market.

3. Be entrepreneurially-minded

Even if you are not self-employed and prefer to work under the structure of a company, you will need to be more entrepreneurial.

It’s not enough just to be productive and efficient. You’ll have to be creative too. As the pace of change increases the more nimble, adaptable and innovative a company has to be.

To achieve that, companies will have to harness the collective entrepreneurial brainpower of its staff.

Another thing that workers don’t do so much of is networking.

For entrepreneurs, it’s absolutely crucial. It will be for workers too. Through networking you’ll get to know many people, which could lead to many new business and collaboration opportunities.

To stay relevant, you’ll have to continually burnish your network. Think of networking as an investment in yourself.


10 things that will be obsolete in 10 years

IF you watch old movies about the future, you’ll notice that when that future arrives, it looks nothing like what the movie-makers envisioned. Usually, real life technology doesn’t advance as fast as what is imagined.

Everything from Lost In Space and Space: 1999 to 2001: A Space Odyssey, they all over-estimated the progress of technology. Blade Runner got it wrong too. Okay, that one is set in 2019, which is still two years away but I’m sure by that time, we still won’t have “replicants” or robots that are indistinguishable from humans.

What that tells us is that it’s really hard to accurately predict technological advancement in a set period of time. Much easier to predict is technological obsolescence. That’s because many of today’s current products or technologies are already showing signs of rapid wear and tear.

Below are some items you probably won’t be seeing much of anymore within a decade.

1. Car mirrors

Many cars already have reverse cameras incorporated into their dashboard monitors. The technology is already in place for all rear mirrors to be replaced by camera-and-display devices which are superior to the old-fashioned mirrors as they can provide a wider view, including blind spots.

In the US, the government has already announced that manufacturers would be required to include back-up cameras in all new cars by May 2018.

This will make these systems commonplace and then, it’s just a matter of time before all car makers follow Tesla’s stated goal of replacing all side-view mirrors with cameras.

2. Charger cables

Mobile phones, digital music players, wireless headphones, wireless keyboard, tablets — all these things carry rechargeable batteries, resulting in a tangled mix of charger cables cluttering up our workspace.

Wireless charging is already available for mobile phones (certain Samsung models, for example), where all you have to do is lay down your device on a charger pad.

Over time, wireless charging technology will continue to improve. Soon enough, not just phones but all other portable devices are bound to be chargeable over the air and won’t require you resting those devices on anything.

They could be in your pocket, charging away wirelessly in the background. Begone, cumbersome power banks!

3. Remote controls

Remote controls are relics of the past which should go away pretty soon and be replaced by voice-activated interfaces. Such technology already exists although it’s still in its nascent form.

Another option for those who don’t quite fancy using their voices for, say, changing TV channels, is the mobile phone. There’s an app for that (well, there’s an app for everything, it seems).

Whatever the case, it doesn’t make any sense in this day and age to have an additional clunky device like a remote control lying around only to be misplaced.

Voice or mobile interfaces are a better idea. Granted, you might sometimes lose your voice but you’re more likely to lose your phone.

4. Point-and-shoot cameras

People don’t really buy dedicated GPS devices anymore because of Waze and Google Maps that reside on your phone. Very few people see any need for dedicated audio recording devices these days because, as they say, there’s an app for that.

But some people are still buying compact cameras despite the fact that all smartphones have built-in cameras. That’s due to a lingering perception that these compact cameras take better quality shots than phone cameras. That’s a myth though.

Phone camera technology has advanced so much that some of the photos taken on smart phones look just as good as those professionally taken on even DSLR cameras.

Just take a look at the various shot-on-an-iPhone billboard ads around the city. With quality like that, why would you bother with a dedicated camera?

5. Thumb drives and portable hard drives

Computers no longer have floppy disc drives or even DVD drives because nobody stores data on such media anymore.

But people do still use thumb drives and portable hard drives to store or transfer data. These are robust, easy-to-use devices for such purposes.

But with cloud storage solutions becoming commonplace and affordable, there really is no need for physical data storage media devices anymore.

Why bother with gadgets that can get lost or damaged when you can just upload or download your data anywhere there’s Internet access (which is almost everywhere now with mobile Internet).

6. Traditional mass media

Terrestrial TV and radio, print magazines and newspapers — these are all forms of mass media that have seen a steady decline in their audience numbers.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be a lot of video-based content anymore; they’ll just reside on platforms like YouTube or Facebook which can host recorded and live video.

Similarly, there’ll still be a lot of radio talk shows but most will be in the form of podcasts, which people can download to listen to or stream on demand. And so it is with magazine and newspapers. Rather than read these in print form, consumers will read articles on web portals and apps on their phones.

Most likely the last form of traditional media to be left standing a decade from now are books.

E-books have taken off in the West but statistics and surveys show that even today many people still have a sentimental attachment to printed books. That’s likely to persist for some time before books too succumb to the progress of technology.

7. Keys and passwords

Some of the more modern and luxurious cars today are already keyless. You just press a Start button. And entry to buildings through locked doors can be achieved by punching in some numbers or through some biometric scan of your eyes or thumbprint.

Physical keys are fast on their way out and certainly will be gone within 10 years.

So will passwords, which might come as a surprise given how ubiquitous they are today.

You use a password to login to any web-related services online, bank websites, social media sites, e-mail accounts, premium website. But that soon may pass.

The downside to passwords is that hackers can sometimes find their way through them.

Again, biometrics such as fingerprints, and voice and facial recognition will be the way to go. Those are much harder to bypass than passwords.

8. Car steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals

Yes, we’re looking at driverless cars, which will become a reality within a decade.

While the early incarnations of self-driving cars will probably still have a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals so that humans can override the self-driving system where necessary, some car makers already have plans for cars with none of these things.

These will truly be autonomous cars that are not designed to be driven by humans.

For sure not all cars will be fully autonomous by 2027 but there will be many cars designed in such a way that all seats are for passengers, with none for the driver.

The vehicle will take you to your destination, much like a train or bus, but you will not able to take control of it, which is probably for the better.

It’s undeniable that it’s human mistakes that cause the bulk of road accidents.

9. Faxes

Is there any doubt that the fax machine is on its last legs? Faxes were useful when you needed to send something that’s a carbon copy of a physical document.

But these days, you can easily scan any document and send them over the Internet. A scanned document is in a fact a better copy of an actual document than a fax. And scans are in colour. So why fax when you can scan?

But what about situations when the recipient requires some kind of signature? Well, you could print out the document, sign it, scan it and then finally, send it.

Admittedly that’s a cumbersome process. Something easier would be a thumbprint scanner app on your mobile phone that can be used in place of a signature. Again, there’s an app for that, I’m sure.

10. Landline phones

Almost everybody has a smart phone these days and those who still don’t would at least have a basic mobile phone than can be used to make phone calls and send text messages.

That’s certainly good enough to replace the traditional landline phones.

It’s quaint to think of a mobile phone that can only be used for talking and texting but even such a device has more functionality that a landline phone, which can only be used for talking.

Few people bother with landline phones these days and within a decade, they should pretty much disappear in most homes though some offices might still want to have them.


Get fit in a jiffy

THE usual reason we give for not exercising regularly is that we don’t have enough time given our busy schedules. That may be valid if we’re talking about the traditional notion of exercise like going for a long run but latest findings in sports science will deny us any use of that excuse.

I first came across “high intensity interval training” (HIIT) when I was looking for a quick exercise for my judo students.

Jogging around the neighbourhood took up too much time which could be better spent on training judo techniques. HIIT was the solution.

The concept behind HIIT is that short bursts of very intense exercise will improve your fitness as much as traditionally longer exercises.

What’s so radical about this type of exercises is just how short these bursts are.

If 20 minutes of exercise is too much time for you to set aside for exercise, how about seven minutes? Too much? What about four minutes? Still too much? One minute?

If I’ve got you intrigued, read and on and be amazed at how much you can achieve within a few minutes just three times a week.

The key word for HIIT is “intensity”. Under this regime, you don’t have to exercise for very long at all but you do have to exercise hard. You also don’t have to be very technical about it. For example, you don’t have to use specialised monitoring devices. Just push yourself until you’re breathing hard.

Basically if you have no difficulty talking to someone while doing these exercises, you’re not working hard enough.

There should be a certain level of discomfort when doing these workouts. Thankfully they don’t last very long.

Seven-minute workout

Dubbed the “seven-minute workout”, this is the HIIT programme I use in my judo class. This programme first came to public consciousness four years ago after an article about it was published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal.

In a nutshell, the programme requires you to do a series of 12 exercises that do not require any special gym equipment.

You can do this in the convenience of your living room or office.

Each of the 12 exercises should be done for only 30 seconds but at high intensity. You get to rest for 10 seconds in between each 30-second burst of exercise.

Technically, the total amount of time spent on the exercise is six minutes, with a total of one-minute and 50 seconds of rest time.

If you want to know what the full range of 12 exercises are, just Google the phrase “seven minute HIIT” and you’ll see lots of results.

There are also plenty of YouTube videos and even mobile apps that you can download for free.

The seven-minute workout created quite a splash when it was first revealed and is actually quite a famous form of HIIT.

Four-minute workout

I doubt anyone can seriously argue that they can’t afford to put aside seven minutes for a workout but I can understand how some people might dislike doing push-ups and tricep dips, planking and so on.

Maybe you’re also the kind of person who prefers more “traditional” exercises like jogging, swimming or cycling but you don’t want to do these for a full 20 minutes or so, which is usually the minimum amount of time recommended for such exercises.

Well, the four-minute workout is suitable for you. According to a study published in 2013, researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that just four minutes of jogging, swimming or cycling at top speed, done three times a week, will get you in good shape.

Again, the key word is “intensity”. You have to push yourself until you’re literally panting, which is hard work but it’s only for four minutes.

The Norwegian researchers got overweight and sedentary volunteers to try this programme for 10 weeks and found that at the end of the trial period, the volunteers had improved their endurance levels by at least 10 per cent and both their metabolic and cardiovascular health had improved as well.

One-minute workout

Okay, let’s say you hate the idea of doing a dozen different exercises (seven-minute workout) and you feel that four full minutes of all-out running or biking is not your cup of tea. How about doing just one minute’s worth of intense exercise?

Actually, it’s not even a minute of continuous exercise but three 20-second bursts, with two minutes of cool-down in between each burst, for a total of one-minute of intense exercise.

One minute! Sounds unbelievable or maybe too good to be true? Again, this is all scientifically sound advice.

Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, had conducted a test in 2014 where he got overweight and sedentary volunteers to complete these three 20-second exercises on stationary bicycles.

Just one full minute of intense cycling, done three times a week for six weeks, saw the volunteers increase their endurance level by a whopping 12 per cent. They also displayed healthier blood pressure levels.

No more excuses

So if you want to get fit but don’t have much time, you now have a solution that doesn’t even require fancy equipment or a gym membership.

What you will need is a willingness to push yourself hard during those few minutes of intense exercise and a commitment to do it three times a week.

These workouts are so brief you could easily do them in the morning before going to work, during your lunch break or right after you reach home from work.

If you find exercise in general to be boring, listen to some music while you are working out. In the time it takes to finish just one or at most two songs, your workout would be over!