Did you know that exercising for 5 to 20 minutes several times a day can be just as effective as completing one 45 to 60-minute workout? In fact, shorter bouts of exercise have a greater chance of promoting long-term adherence compared to longer exercises.
These workouts serve to increase motivation and self-confidence. As they say, a little bit goes a long way. The same is true for shorter yet more frequent exercising.
In this article, we'll discuss how intermittent workouts strengthen muscles, increase cardiovascular fitness, improve flexibility, provide a good mental break, and build adherence.
Benefits of Short Intermittent Workouts
These types of workouts are great for busy people looking for a convenient way to get or stay fit from the comfort of home.
#1 Strengthen Muscles
If you have limited time or can't make it to the gym, choose a few exercises that work a lot of muscle groups at once. Then establish how many reps you'll do for each set. Or go with a timed circuit with 2 to 3 sets of 45 to 60 seconds for each exercise.
You can also try slowing down your movements to create more tension. Both these options can go a long way in increasing your overall strength.
#2 Increase Cardiovascular Fitness
Unless you have a desk and treadmill combo or your job keeps you moving, you're probably not getting much cardiovascular exercise during the bulk of your day. Short little bursts of aerobic exercises or circuits will get your heart pumping even for a little while. Add this up several times over your day, and the heart benefits start to add up.
#3 Improves Flexibility
Let's be honest. As a culture, we sit a lot during the day. Many adults and kids sit at a desk for six to ten hours a day. We sit on a chair to eat our meals, then move to the couch to watch TV or chat with our loved ones.
Sadly, sedentary lifestyles contribute to mobility and flexibility issues down the road. Even more, it can lead to premature death, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Needless to say, moving your body is key to health, quality of life, and longevity. Without exercise, your body becomes tight, stiff, and inflexible. But, with just a little bit of effort, you can prevent this from happening.
Just standing up from your desk, chair, or couch during the day is helpful. And while standing, throw in some short little stretches with a focus on the neck, shoulders, spine, and hips.
Here are a few simple examples:
- Slowly shake your head "yes" and then "no"
- Rotate your shoulders backward and then forward
- Make circles with your hips, moving clockwise then counterclockwise
- Do a forward bend
- Twist side to side, allowing your arms to sway side to side
By doing two 15-minute workouts, or three 10-minute workouts at home, you'll not only increase your flexibility but decrease your chance of injury down the road.
#4 Gives You a Mental Break
It's nearly impossible to stay focused for an hour without needing a mental break. In fact, some experts recommend taking a 5-minute break after 25 minutes of working or studying or a 10-minute break after 50 consecutive minutes of intense focus.
This doesn't mean you have to spend each of these breaks performing short bouts of exercises. You can close your eyes, practice deep breathing, listen to a song, or stand up and walk in place.
But, pick two to three of those breaks (schedule them out in advance) to do some of your favorite exercises. Your brain and body will thank you.
#5 Improves Adherence to Physical Activity
When you interpret something as fun and rewarding versus dreaded and painful, your brain takes note. For someone who's getting back into exercise after some time off, it's easier to get excited about intermittent "mini-session" workouts throughout the day. As opposed to one long 45 to 60-minute workout.
This overall interest, compliance, or excitement towards short workouts, will help you build adherence to fitness. When you do the mini-session workouts, your body will flood with 'feel-good' endorphins, creating a happy mind and an energized body.
With these beneficial changes, you'll want to work out the next day, and the next, until it becomes a part of your regular routine. At this point, you'll have achieved adherence to physical activity.
Quick At-Home Exercises
So, you're ready to start some bite-sized workouts at home. You just need to know what to do. Don't worry, I got you covered.
But, before you begin these exercises, do a little dynamic stretching. All you need is a few minutes. Start by shaking out your body if you've been sitting for a long time. Stretch your quads by bending your knee, grabbing your ankle, and bringing it behind you. Then switch sides.
Next, bend and grab one knee and bring it towards the chest, or lay down and bring both knees towards your chest. You can also do some straight leg kicks on each side and some mobility circles with your hips and arms. Make your warm-up active and then go ahead and start these exercises.
To increase total strength, try some squats, push-ups, and band rows.
Doing squats is a great lower body muscle strengthening exercise. If you prefer a different lower body workout, sit against the wall in a squat position and hold there for a period of time.
Start with the version of push-ups that works best for you. If you want to make it interesting or more challenging, vary the tempo and the distance in between your hands. Do a couple of reps at a time or max out in one set if you only have a minute to spare.
Using a long band with handles, do some standing or seated rows to work on your upper back and core muscles. This low-cost piece of equipment creates resistance that helps build strength.
It's not only possible, but it's easy to get a cardio workout in your house. Or on a nice day, take a short walk outside. Again, something is better than nothing.
Sprint in place
Start to run in place while pumping your arms to mimic a real sprint. To make it more challenging, sprint in place with high knees.
Jumping rope is one of the best full-body cardiovascular workouts you can do. It also improves your coordination.
To get the heart beating, improve your cardio, and increase the strength in your upper body, try mountain climbers. Get in a plank position and bring one knee towards your chest. Bring your foot back to the starting position and switch sides. Start to increase your speed so that it feels like you're running horizontally.
After you've completed your 5, 10, or 20-minute circuit, it's time to do some stretching while your muscles are warm. To keep you loose, flexible, and prevent injuries, you'll want to start stretching more. Focus on stretches for your shoulders, upper and lower back hips, hamstrings, and legs.
Dedicate at least 5 minutes to stretching. In time, you'll notice how it helps keep your mind calm and relaxed. An added perk I'm sure everyone can appreciate.
I hope this article will encourage and motivate you to try intermittent workouts to keep your body and mind in tip-top shape!
1. Joint associations of accelerometer measured physical activity and sedentary time with all-cause mortality https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/54/24/1499