How to Do Mini Workouts Throughout the Day for Fitness
A Different Way to Exercise
Most of us know that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes the thought of performing a full length exercise session at the end of a busy day is daunting, however. We may feel too tired after work or school to even think of exercising, or we may have too much to do in our home looking after other people, doing household chores, or studying.
In these circumstances, it may be easier and less intimidating to do short exercise sessions periodically throughout the day instead of one big session once a day. Multiple mini workouts can be very beneficial for health. They may even be as good as or, according to some researchers, even better than one continuous exercise session, depending on the exercises that are done and their frequency and duration.
Many types of exercises can be performed in short sessions. It's important that we don't do short bursts of extremely vigorous or difficult exercises in these exercise sessions, though. Strenuous exercise should always be preceded by a warm up period involving gentler exercise. In addition, if you are very unfit or have a health problem, check with your doctor before you do any type of exercise.
If you have a health problem that prevents you from doing regular exercise, don't assume that mini workouts will be safe for you. Ask your doctor if they are okay to do. Even someone not under a doctor's care should start an exercise program with relatively gentle activities.
How Short Can Mini Workouts Be?
In different research projects, health benefits have been observed when mini workout sessions have lasted for five, ten, or fifteen minutes and when they have added up to a total of thirty minutes exercise in a day. Exercising for less than five minutes in a session is not likely to be helpful, unless someone is recovering from an illness or injury or is very out of shape. In these situations, very short exercise sessions could be useful, if a doctor agrees.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention|) recommends that a person doing multiple aerobic exercise sessions in a day exercises for at least ten minutes at a time. Most sources that I've seen recommend this as the minimum time length for a session. It seems like a good goal to me, provided a person is reasonably healthy. Three ten-minute sessions would provide the day's exercise requirement. The CDC also recommends that we get a total of 150 minutes of moderately-intense aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking) each week.
The term "speed walking" doesn't mean simply walking fast. When it's done correctly, it can exercise the upper body as well as the lower one. The woman in the video above describes and demonstrates the process.
Mini Walking Workouts
Walking can be a great form of exercise, as long as the walk is more demanding than a slow stroll. Slow strolls have their uses, though. They are great for relaxation or for someone with health problems that prevent them from doing more vigorous types of walking. Any type of walking has some health benefits.
Here are some ways to sneak a walking walkout into your busy day.
- Climb any stairs that you encounter. Climbing the stairs once is good, but if you have time, go down and climb the stairs again. Stair climbing is great aerobic exercise and is also a wonderful exercise for the thigh muscles. (An aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and lungs.)
- During your walks, walk up hills, march with knee lifts, or do speed or power walking intervals with bent arms (without letting them cross your body) for added aerobic and strength-building benefits.
- Take brisk mini walks throughout the day. For example, walk to the next bus stop instead of the nearest one when you have to catch a bus. Take a mini walk at lunch time or before heading home after work. Park your car at the edge of a shopping mall parking lot so that you have to walk to the mall entrance. Walk one or more circuits around the shopping mall before you enter a store.
- Take a walk on the way home from work. It’s often psychologically easier to exercise before you arrive home than to get yourself physically and mentally ready for exercise once you’ve entered your home at the end of the workday. Park the car on the way home so that you can take a walk before you continue on your drive. Get off the bus one or more stops before your usual bus stop and walk the rest of the way home.
- Take advantage of any outdoor exercise equipment that you see on your walks.
- Try walking backwards to exercise new muscles. Check your route for obstacles first, though!
- During the week and on weekends, walk or cycle to school, work, stores, or appointments instead of driving or using public transport. Make exercise a part of your lifestyle. This may be the best strategy of all for getting regular exercise.
In a recent study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego found an interesting benefit of a short walking session. After twenty minutes of walking at a moderate pace, subjects had a significant drop in the blood level of immune system cells linked to inflammation.
More Aerobic Mini Workouts
- Hopping, jumping, and running intervals are good ways to increase aerobic intensity, provided a short walk is performed as a warm-up. In fact, some researchers have found that mixing short and higher intensity intervals with longer and lower intensity ones is better for fitness than exercising at a constant intensity. Make sure that you're wearing supportive and cushioning shoes when you do any higher-impact forms of exercise and avoid very hard surfaces.
- Kick, hit, or throw a ball around for a short time. Having fun while you exercise can make it easier to do.
- Dancing can also be great exercise. When you’re listening to music at home, get up and move or dance to the music until the song or section is finished. Just make sure that you’re wearing suitable shoes. You may enjoy moving to music so much that you'll want to dance to the next song, too.
- Indoor exercise machines such as stationary bikes and treadmills can be useful for mini workouts, as long as the exerciser doesn't find their use boring. Some people avoid the potential boredom by exercising while watching television or listening to music.
The video below includes some ideas that for activities that could be performed in mini workouts while a person is outdoors or indoors. As always, it's important to listen to your body if you try them and to keep the intensity and repetitions low if you are a beginner.
Mini Strength-Building Sessions
Aerobic exercises such as the ones described above are essential in a fitness program. Strength training is important too, however. Here are some ideas for building muscle strength. As in aerobic exercise, start gently and increase the challenge gradually.
- Spend some time standing instead of sitting. Standing burns more calories than sitting. When you do sit, don’t slouch, but do make sure that your back is properly supported.
- When you sit, consider sitting on a large exercise ball for some of the time. This exercises new muscles as you balance on the ball. Spend only a short time on the ball to begin with and increase your sitting time gradually.
- Do a few biceps curls or other upper body exercises with natural weights that you encounter during the day, such as full food and drink containers or small items of office equipment.
- Do a few wall push ups during the day to exercise your upper body.
- Do lunges and squats or other standing or sitting lower body exercises when you have a spare moment (and when you also have privacy if you prefer).
- Do standing crunches to exercise the abdominal area.
- Take a resistance band or resistance tube to work with you or keep one at your workplace and use it to exercise your muscles. Stretchy resistance bands, also called exercise bands, come in different tensions to suit your muscle strength and are easy to carry from place to place. Resistance tubes are similar but have handles. Exercise bands or tubes can be taken on walks for resistance training intervals.
- Try exercising during the advertisements when you’re watching television or even while you're watching a program. Keep weights or exercise bands beside your seat so that they are readily available when you need them. Start with light weights if you’re new to weightlifting.
- Periodically do gentle stretching exercises and standing or sitting yoga exercises. (Don’t do big stretches if your muscles aren’t warmed up.)
- Remember to be careful with all exercises, especially if you haven’t exercised for a long time or haven’t done a particular type of exercise before or for a long time. Start gently and gradually increase the intensity over time as you become fitter.
- Make sure that you use the correct form when lifting weights or doing strength-building exercises. Even though you’re doing a mini workout, don’t sacrifice good body form for speed. It’s better to do one exercise correctly for a short time than to cram many exercises done incorrectly into the same time period. A little research before you incorporate an exercise into a workout will help prevent any injuries and enable you to keep increasing your fitness level.
- Do a variety of exercises for interest and to exercise different parts of your body. Take rest days if you need them, especially if you're new to exercising.
The Benefits of Short Exercise Sessions
While mini workouts won't be very useful for training professional athletes or advanced amateur ones, they are great for the rest of us. They may help us to both stick to an exercise program and enjoy it. On days when we have time, we can participate in one longer period of exercise if we wish (or perhaps two medium-length ones). It's nice to know that on other days multiple mini workouts can help us to get fit and stay that way.
- "How much physical activity do adults need?" from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- "Two short, daily activity bouts vs. one long bout: are health and fitness improvements similar over twelve and twenty-four weeks?" from the National Institutes of Health
- "Does the fractionalization of daily physical activity (sporadic vs. bouts) impact cardiometric risk factors in children and youth?" from the National Institutes of Health
- "Short Exercise Sessions May Decrease Inflammation" from WebMD
- "Speed up your walking" from the University of California, Berkeley
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2011 Linda Crampton