Getting enough exercise is a key ingredient to health and longevity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week of exercise. For some people, finding the time to dedicate to a workout is hard, especially if you’re factoring in a drive to the gym and a shower afterward.
There’s good news for you busy folks – small amounts of exercise may be just as effective as a single longer session.
Small Amounts Add Up
“Exercise is good for our bodies in many ways. It regulates how the body processes glucose, lowers blood pressure, keeps heart valves flexible, lubricates joints and boosts your mood, among other things,” said Spencer Kaufman a health and fitness specialist at SamFit - Newport. “Traditional advice was that exercise needed to last at least 10 minutes to be effective, but we’re learning that small amounts of movement can have an impact and add up to be just as helpful as one long session.”
A study of healthy adults published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 10 three-minute brisk walks was as effective at reducing cholesterol and blood pressure after a meal as one continuous 30-minute walk.
Another study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise examined prehypertensive adults and found that three 10-minute sessions lowered blood pressure as effectively as a single 30-minute session. Interestingly, the group who exercised in multiple sessions had better blood pressure control at night and the following day compared to the single-session exercise group.
“As long as you are doing meaningful exercise in that short amount of time – so not a leisurely stroll but a serious, brisk walk – small amounts of exercise can absolutely be beneficial,” Kaufman said.
In addition, he noted that incorporating movement throughout your day, rather than relying on one session of exercise and sitting around the rest of the day, is also a good practice. If you’re looking for ideas, SamFit has a great set of 5-minute Office-friendly Stretch Breaks on their YouTube channel as well as other exercise playlists and training tips.
New to Exercise? Start Here
If you are new to exercise, walking is a great place to start.
- Walk for three minutes every hour, working toward 30 minutes a day of cumulative walking. Or try three 10-minute sessions if that’s easier for your schedule.
- Set a reminder. If you have a smartwatch, it might already be reminding you to get up and walk around regularly, or you can set a reminder on your phone.
- Daily living activities count. If walking throughout the day is difficult, remember that activities like walking from your car, vacuuming and putting away the laundry all count toward your 30-minute goal if you keep your pace brisk.
“Sometimes people think about exercise as something we only do if we want more muscles or to lose weight, but our bodies were made to move,” said Kaufman. “It’s a really important part of our health.”