Fit It In: Mini Workouts Are a Great Option When You’re Crunched for Time

Fit It In: Mini Workouts Are a Great Option When You’re Crunched for Time

Accumulated exercise over the course of the day is as effective as one continuous session. Don’t take my word for it — trust the science.

The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association’s advocate that to improve health and reduce risk of chronic disease individuals should set a goal to participate in a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. This can be performed in 30-minute bouts of activity five days a week or it may be accumulated with mini-workouts throughout the day that are at least 10 minutes in duration. That is equivalent to just 1.5% of your week. Yes, just 1.5%!!!

If you’re looking for a way to fit exercise into your day but struggle to find a 30–45-minute block of time, consider mini workouts. These shorter sessions take the place of one longer workout by breaking up a training routine into several smaller ones.

And YES, studies show you don’t have to get all your exercise at once for it to make a big difference in your life. Moving throughout the day is just as effective. Think of it as breaking your exercise routine into smaller and more manageable bite size chunks.

Benefits Of Mini Workouts 

Shorter and multiple exercise sessions provide increased flexibility in your daily schedule and allow you to prioritise your health while juggling family, work, and friend obligations.

In other words, performing bite-size workouts throughout the day can make it easier to adhere to an exercise program and experience the benefits of exercise.

8 Of The Top benefits Of Mini-Workouts.

1. Improve your overall health and wellbeing

Multiple studies have shown that accumulating exercise in short bouts of at least 10 minutes of activity over the course of the day produces similar effects on a range of health-related outcomes, compared with performing the same exercise in one continuous bout. Outcomes include;

  1. Positive blood pressure or cardiorespiratory outcomes.
  2. Positive effect on blood fat, insulin, and glucose levels.

2. Easier to fit into the day

The number one reason for not exercising regularly is a perceived lack of time. Most people think of exercise as something that requires a lot of effort, time, and a change of clothing. 

Mini workouts throughout the day may appeal to people who just don’t have the time or inclination for one big workout. A mini workouts could consist of 5–10 minutes of walking or resistance exercises that do not require a change of clothes.

Research has shown that accumulating physical activity throughout the day is just as effective for improving health and fitness as doing one workout, provided that an equal amount of time is devoted to each.

3. May improve exercise adherence

Committing to an exercise program over time requires patience, persistence, and a whole lot of motivation and in many cases a financial investment.

Unfortunately, many people stop working out before they even get a chance to reap the benefits of exercise - think of your New Years Resolution where you wanted to do an Ironman!!! 

The good news is shorter sessions throughout the day may make it easier to stick to a routine.

4. Boost your brain health and mood

In fact performing single bouts of exercise (as short as 3–5 minutes) throughout the day can elicit transient benefits to the brain and mood.

In fact, one study found that participants who performed a 10-minute bout of brisk walking and meditation experienced improved mood, compared to an inactive control group

5. Can help lower blood pressure

Glenn A. Gaesser, Ph.D. of Arizona State University and his colleagues conducted a small study in 2012 to compare the effects of short aerobic exercise sessions and continuous exercise on 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure.

They found that doing three 10-minute walks during the day (morning, midday, late afternoon) lowered blood pressure more than doing one 30-minute walk in prehypertensive individuals. This outcome is so important for those that work in an office based environment or in jobs that are sedentary. 

6. Make it easier to exercise at higher intensities

Cranking out a high intensity for a long time is not an easy feat — even for seasoned athletes.

That’s why shorter exercise sessions appeal to fitness fans of all levels. Decreasing the time allows you to exercise at higher intensities that are not easily or comfortably sustained for longer periods of time.

7. Reduce the stress of working out

“Incorporating shorter workouts into your day can reduce the stress response or fear that some people have towards a workout session,” says Daniel Gallucci, a functional neurologist.

When looked at fitness from this perspective, shortened workouts just become a part of your day rather than a stressful session at the gym.

8. Can help you reach your fitness goals

According to Christine Ogbonna, DPT, a physical therapist at Providence Saint John’s Performance Therapy Center, mini workouts help busy people reach their fitness goals.

“Shorter workouts allow people with busy schedules to focus on what they can perform in small controlled bouts throughout the day without feeling overwhelmed by committing a huge amount of time to work out,” she says.

In addition, mini workouts are easy to schedule and more sustainable to perform and commit to long term, and they allow for more focused, intensive, and intentional exercise to occur, especially if you’re easily distracted by your emails, social media or anything but exercise.

Drawbacks of mini workouts

“There are really no drawbacks in terms of health benefits,” says Gaesser of AZU.

And Daniel Gallucci says the main drawback is that you will have to warm up and cool down before and after each workout throughout the day to prevent injury, though I feel that incorporating a dynamic and mobility focus to your workout will mitigate against resultant injuries. Additionally, he says, building up your endurance may be difficult over time due to the time limit placed on workout length, but unless you want to get to Hawaii and complete its infamous Ironman you should just focus on and enjoy your bite sized workouts.

It’s unclear whether multiple short bouts of exercise burn enough calories to make a significant impact on weight loss, but we know that high intensity intervals burn more calories than continuous, steady exercise.

I’m a huge fan of Tabata Intervals and have incorporated them into training sessions for both individuals and teams for the past 15 years. One very small study examined Tabata intervals done successively versus intermittently. Researchers found that the effects on body composition, resting metabolic rate, and cardiovascular fitness were more or less the same. 

Regardless of the calories burned, for many people who avoid exercise because of a lack of time, shorter sessions are better than no exercise at all.

In fact, Gaesser says they’ll keep you healthy and living longer. It’s perhaps better to focus on the endgame, and remember that making fitness a lifestyle habit is the best approach of all — no matter how you do so.

Okay, this piece is running on a bit but you still need so tips to manage your new mini-workout routine. So bear with me :)

Tips for fitting in mini workouts

If you’re ready to give mini workouts a try but not sure how to make them work, here are some ideas for accumulating a balance of strength, cardio, and mobility exercises throughout the day.

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Schedule your workouts
  3. Mix it up
  4. Break your routine into bite size chunks - You can also break up a 30-minute session into 10 x 3-minute bursts of activity throughout the day.
  5. Follow a format - For cardiovascular and strengthening benefits use a Tabata or HIIT style.

Example: 5 exercises

  1. 2 minutes each exercise with a work-rest ratio of 1:1 (30 seconds on, 30 seconds off)
  2. depending on your fitness level, the work-rest ratio can be altered
  3. To improve mobility and strength, challenge yourself with heavier weights focusing on proper form, as the exercises will be performed for shorter durations.

Short bursts of activity - Why not start now?

Here are some ideas for very short mini workouts you can fit in while you’re on the phone, hanging around the house, taking a quick work break, standing on the sidelines at your child’s sports practice, or at the playground.

You can pick and choose from this list or add some movements of your own. Aim for 3 minutes of moving, 10 times a day.

  1. If you have stairs at home, perform 30 seconds of double step ups each time you walk by the stairs. Keep a tally of the number of sets you complete in a day.
  2. No stairs? No problem. Do 30 seconds of bodyweight lunges after each trip to the bathroom, while waiting for your coffee to brew, or when you get up from a seated position.
  3. At work, do 30 seconds of squats after climbing a flight of stairs. While on a conference call or during a break, set your watch for 3 minutes and do alternating sets of 30 seconds of squats followed by 30 seconds of calf raises.
  4. At the playground or sidelines, set your watch for 3 minutes and do alternating sets of 30 seconds of incline pushups on a bench, followed by 30 seconds of high knees. Or try 2–3 minutes of walking lunges.
  5. Store a set of dumbbells under your desk at work. While on the phone or during a break, do bicep curls for 30 seconds and shoulder presses for 30 seconds. If you have a sturdy chair, throw in a 30-second set of tricep dips. Aim for 3–5 minutes total.

10-minute mini workouts

For 10-minute blocks of time, try one of the following mini workouts.

Bodyweight circuit 1

  1. 10 bodyweight squats
  2. 10 pushups
  3. 20 jumping jacks
  4. 20-second plank
  5. 10 glute bridges
  6. 20 seconds of rest
  7. Repeat as many times as possible in 10 minutes

Bodyweight circuit 2

  1. 30 seconds bodyweight squats
  2. 30 seconds jumping jacks or high knees
  3. 30-second plank
  4. 30 seconds rest
  5. Repeat 4–5 times

Cardio and strength hill repeats

  1. Find a short hill.
  2. Walk or run to the top.
  3. Perform 10 bodyweight squats and 15 walking lunges.
  4. Walk down the hill.
  5. Repeat as many times as possible for 10–15 minutes.

Sample yoga routine

  1. Child’s Pose: 2–3 repetitions, hold for 20–30 seconds
  2. Cat-Cow: 10 repetitions
  3. Chair Pose: 10 repetitions
  4. Downward Dog: 8 repetitions
  5. Repeat and do as many rounds as possible for 10 minutes.

Conclusion - at last you might add :)

Finding time to exercise can be a lot easier when you break up one longer session into bite-size workouts.

Performing shorter bouts of movement several times a day allows you to accumulate the time needed to meet minimum physical activity guidelines. Plus, mini workouts can provide benefits similar to those offered by one long session.

We’re all busy and know that fitting in fitness is important. Rest assured that all the time you spend moving your body adds up, and you’ll reap the benefits of exercise even when you do just a little at a time. Who knows, you might find yourself developing a habit in no time.

“Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.” 

James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones