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Can Mini Workouts Throughout The Day Really Be Effective?

by Power Life Team | July 22, 2020

Can mini workouts throughout the day really help to support your weight loss goals? Well, if you struggle to find time to work out, there’s some good news: several short bursts of exercise daily might be just as effective as one long session.

Let’s take a look at how.

10 Minute Workouts: Can A Quick Workout Several Times A Day Help To Boost Weight Loss?

Almost everyone faces limitations in what they can get done in a day. Perhaps you work long hours, you commute long distances, or you’re a full-time caregiver. But, in the words of Tony Horton, “Your limitations may be challenges, but they shouldn’t be excuses.”

So, if you’ve been feeling like you couldn’t possibly fit an exercise routine into your daily schedule, don’t throw the towel in just yet. There’s another option you may not have explored – the mini workout.

What if you could spend just 7-10 minutes, three times a day, and still meet your fitness and health goals?

What The Science Says

Back in 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended that adults try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise each week “for substantial health benefits.”1 This is a great guideline for planning out a week’s worth of exercise.

However, a newer study from 2018 looked at performing this weekly physical activity in bouts of around 10 minutes or less. And, it found that micro workouts throughout the day may be just as effective as spending an hour at the gym. The study found that risk factors related to being overweight were significantly reduced when exercise was performed in these short bursts.2

short workout | My Power LifeAnother study looked specifically at the effect of short bouts of exercise and weight loss on overweight females. These short bouts consisted of three groups: one did mini workouts of 3 10-minute exercise sessions per day, another did 2 15-minute exercise sessions daily, and then a third group had a longer session of a single 30-minute workout. It found that all three groups lost weight and increased their endurance. The timing was irrelevant.3

So, research suggests that mini workouts do work. But here’s the thing: you need to make sure these short bursts of exercise are of moderate-to-vigorous intensity. (You can find some great examples and ideas for this below.)

What Are The Other Health Benefits Of Continuous Exercise Throughout The Day?

So, you can support weight loss and fitness goals with mini workouts throughout the day. But there are also mental benefits to working out throughout the day. When you work out once a day, you gain benefits. But when you workout out multiple times throughout the day, you may boost your mental well-being several times over.

Potential benefits of mini workouts may include:

  • Increased Focus – Working at a computer all day can be mentally draining, but a brief hit of exercise might help heighten memory, creativity, and focus.
  • Decreased Stress – Stress can pop up multiple times throughout any given day. But exercise decreases stress levels by flooding the brain with endorphins – the happy hormone.
  • Uplifted Mood – Endorphins are also famed for making you feel happier and more euphoric.
  • Boosted Self Confidence – Weight loss, muscle tone, and feeling strong can have a huge effect on self confidence. And, knowing you can gain this confidence in small periods of downtime throughout the day is even more uplifting.4

Intermittent Exercise: Try These Mini Workout Ideas Throughout The Day

Let’s first revisit the terms “moderate-intensity exercise” and “vigorous-intensity exercise” as outlined in those studies mentioned earlier.

  • Moderate-intensity exercise is defined as a brisk walking pace that boosts your heart rate enough to make it hard to carry on a normal conversation. However, it can also include vacuuming and mopping the floor. Moderate exercise burns around 3-6 times as much energy as sitting quietly.
  • Vigorous-intensity exercise is defined as a jog, a team sports game, a solid hike, or carrying heavy loads. This type of exercise can burn more than 6 times the energy of sitting down quietly.5

How would these fit into an average day? Here are a few ideas.

1. 10-Minute Brisk Walk

brisk walk | My Power Life

This one is great for a short lunch hour when you don’t want to get too sweaty. Set your phone timer and get your body moving.

2. 10-Minute Cardio Workout

You can amp up a brisk walk by turning that 10 minutes into a jog. If you own an exercise machine, you could also do 10 minutes on a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike. Or, find a set of stairs and perform “stair-climbs” for 10 minutes.

Another option is to purchase a jump rope. It’s an inexpensive and effective cardio workout. It’s said that the physical exertion of jumping rope for just 10 minutes is the equivalent of running a mile in eight minutes. And since both of your legs take the impact, it can be a little gentler on the knees. You can also burn up to 1300 calories per hour, so in 10 minutes, that’s a little over 216 calories. It’s a full body workout.6

You could also use those 10 minutes to do a short circuit consisting of one minute each of:

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Marching In Place
  • Squat Jumps (squats with a small jump in between)
  • Toe Taps (tap your foot out to the side and then tap it back in, switching feet in the second round)
  • A Rest Minute (and then repeat)

3. 10-Minute Strength Training Workout

exercise ball | My Power LifeAim for 45 seconds of reps for each of these five strength training exercises, with a 15-second break between each type of exercise. Then repeat all five strength training exercises one more time.

Try to move as continuously as you can through each of your reps, amping up the activity to at least a moderate level of exertion.

However, you should always talk to a doctor to determine the right exercises and pace for your own personal circumstances.

  • Wall Pushups – To do this classic bodyweight exercise, start by placing your hands on a wall, slightly wider than shoulder-width. Stand back from the wall so that you form an angle with it. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your chest toward the wall, keeping your body straight. Focus on squeezing your butt and ab muscles.
  • Slow Squats – Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and hold your arms out in front of you. Then push your hips back, bend your knees and “squat” down as far as you can go. You can also do this by lowering your body into an actual chair. Focus on not letting your knees fall inwards and pushing through your heels.
  • Stationary Lunge – Step back as far as you can with one foot so that your toes are on the ground and your heel is raised. Make sure that you still feel balanced and comfortable. Bend your front knee and lower into the “lunge,” then return to standing. Focus on keeping the weight on your front heel and keeping your upper body and face lifted and facing forward. Switch legs on the second round.
  • Bicep Curls – Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, arms hanging by your sides with a light weight (or can) in each hand. You can also use a resistance band that’s secured under your feet. Keep your elbows close to your body with your palms facing upwards. Then “curl” the weight upwards to your shoulders from the elbow. Focus on contracting your biceps while keeping your upper arms completely still.
  • Tricep Dips – Grab a chair and place it so it won’t slip. Sit on the chair and grip the edge next to your hips. Extend your legs, but keep your knees bent. Then slide your butt just off the edge of the chair as you continue to grip the chair with your hands. Look straight ahead, and lower yourself until your elbows are bent to around a 90-degree angle. Then push yourself back up and continue these reps. Focus on keeping your ab muscles tight as you work your triceps.

4. 10-Minute Dance Workout

It’s 4PM and you want to get in one more mini workout to round out the day. But your motivation level is at its lowest. What to do? Try this workout with your favorite playlist.

man dancing | My Power LifeCue up three of your favorite songs on your phone, laptop, or TV. Think upbeat, fun, mood-boosting numbers. Then, just dance it out for three songs. Anything goes. Just move your body.

You’ve just completed a vigorous-intensity mini workout, and you were having so much fun you didn’t even notice.

Should Your Mini Workout Sessions Include High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, is a hugely popular form of exercise. You’ll find that many classes at the gym are labelled as HIIT. So, what does this mean?

High Intensity Interval Training involves working your body for short bursts of vigorous intensity with about the same recovery time in-between. It’s often performed in gyms as a class circuit with multiple workstations. You workout hard at the station for around 45 seconds to a minute, and then rest between each station.

The benefit of a HIIT workout is that it may provide greater aerobic exercise benefits than a much longer workout. So, if you’re limited for time, you might reap substantial fitness and weight loss benefits from a HIIT routine.7

HIIT exercise | My Power LifeIncluding a HIIT routine as a mini workout could certainly increase the benefits of that short workout. However, it’s usually advised that a HIIT routine lasts for at least 20 minutes.8

Something Is Always Better Than Nothing

For some it may be easier to commit to several mini workouts throughout the day than one long one. Which is a substantial asset when it comes to sticking to an exercise routine for heart health, mental health, and weight loss.

You may not own a kettlebell or a treadmill, but you don’t need them. Moving your body at moderate or vigorous intensity is the key. And as long as you’re moderately healthy, you should be able to move your body at a moderate intensity.

Of course, you should always talk to your doctor about what type of exercise is right for your health and fitness levels before starting a new exercise program.

Finally, don’t forget that your body also needs rest days for muscle recovery. Working out every day does not help your fitness. Instead, it could put you at risk for injury. Work out hard and often, but remember to rest, too.9

Learn More:
Try This List Of Fitness Goals For Your Active Rest Day
Simple Exercises To Do While Watching TV
Tony Horton’s Guide to Staying Fit While Self-Isolating: Exercises To Do At Home