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For some people, getting in their daily dose of fitness is no problem. They’ll wake up early to go for a run or they make up that very interesting subspecies of humans that can take a 5am CrossFit class (weirdos). We all know a few of those people, but for us mere mortals—how much exercise do we really need in order to optimize our health?
Well, recent headlines like this one (Super short workouts can be surprisingly effective) would have you believe that all you need is a few minutes to knock out some fitness and go about your day knowing you just did enough to experience some serious health benefits. But is that too good to be true or do you really just need a few minutes a day in order to feel your best?
Well, research shows that while you probably shouldn’t expect a full body transformation, workouts as short as 7 to 10 minutes can improve your health, wellbeing, and fitness. Now, that is if you approach those workouts the right way.
When it comes to getting the full benefit of short workouts, intensity is key. Studies by the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas have shown that when people cycle as hard they can for just 4 seconds, then rest for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat that for 10 minutes, not only did participants see an improvement in fitness but some older adults even put on muscle mass.
Now, does that mean you should ditch your current workout routine and replace it for much shorter, intense workouts? Not necessarily. There is still plenty of research that shows significant benefits to going well beyond the standard American recommendation of just 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week.
Anything besides a sedentary lifestyle can count as a workout
So what does this all mean? Should you be doing a 10 minute intense workout or should you get your butt in the gym for an hour + a few times a week? Tough to rank one over the other, but there is one thing that is abundantly clear—something is always better than nothing.
The key takeaway? Well, that was just it—something is always better than nothing. When it comes to physical activity, there is no right or wrong answer. As long as you are not completely sedentary, you are doing the right thing.
In an ideal world, your fitness routine should include some resistance training, some longer low to medium intensity workouts, and some shorter higher intensity workouts, but at the end of the day, whatever time and circumstances allow is what you should aim for.
Now, it is also important to remember the fact that staying active and prioritizing daily movement doesn’t have to happen within the constraints of a traditional workout at all. Are you taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or going for a walk after lunch? Are you jumping on the trampoline with your kids or are you just watching them play while you sip on some evening wine? These are all lifestyle decisions that can make all the difference when it comes to your fitness, health, and longevity.
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