One Workout Vs. Several Short Workouts

When it comes to exercise, finding the time to make it happen is often one of the most significant barriers. With work, family obligations, school, social commitments and anything else life throws your way, carving out a 60-minute block of time in your day may seem like an impossible feat.

Small amounts of exercise throughout the day can make a significant difference in your overall fitness. (Image: sanjeri/E+/GettyImages)

But what if you could still get plenty of benefits by doing several small workouts throughout the day? Would you try it?

Recommended Amount of Exercise

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. For added health benefits, up that number to 300 minutes weekly.

That's anywhere between 30 and 40 minutes of exercise on most, if not all, days of the week. To save a bit of time, the CDC does give you the option of doing 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. Also recommended are two days per week of strength training with a focus on total-body workouts that include all of the major muscle groups.

If the idea of finding that much time each day to work out has you in a panic, then consider this: A research article published by PloSOne in 2016 discovered that sweating it out in a 10-minute workout that includes at least one minute at a high intensity can have similar benefits to a longer workout performed at a moderate intensity.

Small Workouts Throughout the Day

If you're struggling to make it to your 60-minute indoor cycling class, don't throw in the towel and give up on exercise altogether. Rather than cross fitness off your list, consider scheduling in small workouts throughout the day.

Working out throughout the day allows you to get shorter bursts of exercise in without feeling that you have to choose between your health and other responsibilities. To get the most bang for your buck, mix in a few minutes of higher-intensity bouts of activity in each 15-minute block of time.

Sample Small Workout

Take a 15-minute walk during your lunch break, but include two minutes of moving at a vigorous intensity or faster than your normal pace, followed by a 15-minute walk after work. These bursts of vigorous activity fall under the category of high-intensity interval training or HIIT.

Alternating between moderate- and high-intensity intervals in a workout allows you to burn calories and improve your cardiorespiratory fitness in half the time of slow, steady-state cardio.

Structuring a Mini Workout

Whether you're at work, at home or standing on the sidelines watching your kids play soccer, squeezing in a 15-minute workout is doable, for example:

  • Break up a 30-minute workout into two 15-minute workouts. For instance, do a 15-minute mini workout with cardio and bodyweight exercises in the morning, followed by a 15-minute walk at lunchtime.
  • Divide a 45-minute session into three 15-minute small workouts throughout the day. Perform a 15-minute quick HIIT workout in the morning, a 15-minute series of yoga poses midday and a 15-minute jog outside to finish off.

You can also aim to perform several small sets of exercises throughout the day. Perform each of once a day at different times:

  • Do 10 bodyweight squats at the top of each staircase.
  • Plank for one minute, three times a day.
  • Perform 15 pushups — focusing on a different variation each time — three times a day.
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