5 minutes or 50 minutes-How Much Exercise is Required to Get Health Benefits?
“A little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing”
is a song by Robert Parker and a spiritual law. It’s also how I define my approach to getting exercise.
Many of my clients tell me that they can’t find time to exercise and eat healthy while working the nine to five grind. I agree the hectic modern-day schedule leaves us with little time for a movement that makes us feel better and is good for our health.
A few years back, when I was suffering from perfectionism- yes, I’m a recovering perfectionist, my healthy-to-do list was a mile long; cut down carbs, count my macros, lose weight, build muscle, build mileage, turn off devices before bed, blackout the room at night, and on and on it went.
Honestly, just sticking to the list started stressing me out more than anything else. I wanted to have time to check all these things. I’m glad I walked away from that approach and have started keeping things simple, like eating whole foods, going slow with my running mileage, and including recovery days in my training cycle.
The good news is, that you don’t have to be deadlifting 300 pounds, counting carbs, and working out 60 minutes a day to live a healthy and non-sedentary life. Research suggests that small bouts of exercise are as effective as continuous exercise over a period.
How much exercise is good enough?
A meta-analysis of research studies shows that 75 minutes of exercise per week, which could be just a 15-minute walk or jog every day, resulted in a 14 percent lower risk of heart disease (1).
If you consider the intensity of the exercise, then just five minutes a day of physically strenuous exercise provides many benefits. A study conducted on runners found that participants who ran 10 minutes a day weren’t different than those who ran 150 minutes a week (2). This means as little as 10 minutes of vigorous exercise can give the same health benefits as a longer exercise duration.
The bottom line is to work out as much as you can. If you don’t work out at all, start moving a few minutes a day. If you walk 10 to 15 minutes a day, then do more.
How to Fit Exercise in the Busy Workday?
High-Intensity Interval Training- HIIT or High-intensity interval training, is an easy solution for getting your workouts in a short amount of time.
A research study shows that low volume, high-intensity workouts of only 28 minutes per week- two 14-minute workouts per week led to significant improvement in VO2max scores, blood pressure, and waist circumference (3).
The HIIT workout doesn’t have to be time-consuming, doing a 2-minute warm-up and eight bouts of 20 seconds strenuous efforts followed by a 2-minute cooldown can be enough to reap the benefits of cardio-endurance exercise. Anyone can get their heart rate up for 4 minutes a day. Workouts don’t have to be high impact if you are worried about joint pain. There are many options of high-intensity exercises to choose from.
Get a Healthy Dose of Nature- It’s not all about high intensity, though. Low-intensity exercise is equally good for you. Nature is medicine, especially when combined with movement. The use of outdoor natural environments for physical activity and health is not new. We are born to move in the outdoor environment, and we still share the innate affiliation with the great outdoors (4).
Get some green exercise every day for 10 to 15 minutes. You will get your daily movement and an enhanced mood because of the elevated serotonin levels.
Don’t Underestimate Household Chores- Although following a regular exercise plan is good for consistency and health benefits, don’t underestimate the daily movement you get from household chores. Research shows that the incidental exercise you get from walking in a grocery store, going up and down the stairs, gardening, landscaping, and cleaning the house account for movement for better health too.
Therefore, in addition to the structured exercise programs, try to keep plenty of disguised exercise in your daily routine by moving more and sitting less.
It might sound like a new exercise trend, but research strongly suggests that you can enjoy the health benefits of exercise by moving as little as 10 to 15 minutes a day. Try the three exercise modes to get more movement in your busy workdays.
4- doi: 10.1186/2046–7648–2–3
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