The number one reason we all give for not doing enough exercise is that we simply don’t have the time. After all, you’re hardly likely to get fit in just five minutes a day, are you? Well, yes, according to several studies, which have found that short bursts of exercise are just as effective – sometimes more so when they’re high intensity – as lengthy gym sessions. Experts have dubbed it “fitness snacking”.
Don’t get carried away with the idea that one mini exercise session a week will be enough, though. Little but often is the message. So try these five quick exercise ideas.
Got 12 minutes?
Try: Any type of cardio, for example, climbing stairs, skipping or gentle jogging.
How often? Five days a week.
Health boost: As well as improving your circulation and metabolism, it could also help to reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 27%.
The evidence: Researchers from Harvard Medical School in the US discovered that doing an hour of moderate cardiovascular activity each week will reduce a woman’s risk of heart disease and stroke by 27%. “A lot of the benefit comes through lowered levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, rather than through changes in body mass index,” says cardiologist Samia Mora, who led the study.
Make it work for you: Moderate cardio could include a quick gentle jog, a bike ride or even a few laps in your gym pool, according to personal trainer Dalton Wong.
Got 10 minutes?
Try: A fast run.
How often? Once a day.
Health benefits: This is one to work up to if you’ve never tried jogging, but the appeal is that you don’t need to have the stamina to run for half an hour. Ten minutes of high-intensity running is enough to increase your sensitivity to insulin (and therefore reduce your risk of type-2 diabetes and obesity), reduce stress levels and blitz fat cells. The research – published in the medical journal Science Translational Medicine – also revealed that a short 10-minute burst of cardio will reduce
your risk of developing heart disease.
Make it work for you: Run outdoors rather than on a treadmill – you’ll get more out of it. “The uneven ground will force your muscles to work harder to keep you upright,” says Dalton.
Got 15 minutes?
Try: Brisk walking.
How often? Three times a week.
Health benefits: A sharper brain as well as cardiovascular benefits. A study from the Group Health Research Institute in the US found that women who exercise moderately three times a week for 15 minutes were 38% less likely to develop dementia. “Exercise helps improve circulation and boosts the health of the blood vessels in the brain, making you better able to withstand stress to the hippocampus, where memory lives,” says Dr Eric Larson, who led the study.
Make it work for you: “Walk whenever you can,” says Dalton. “Keep your ears over your shoulders for strong posture and keep your stomach pulled in to work your abdominal muscles.” Build in some uphill walking to up the pace.
Got 20 minutes?
Try: A bike ride.
How often? Once a week.
Health benefits: Better sex! In fact, any exercise will improve your sex life, so if you don’t like bike riding, you can try dancing, vigorous swimming or brisk walking. All exercise increases blood flow, improves your energy levels, and boosts your body confidence and self-esteem. A study from The University of Texas in the US found that women who spent 20 minutes on either a treadmill or stationary bike increased blood flow to their pelvic area by 50%, with better sex and stronger orgasms as a result.
Make it work for you: It’s all in the timing! Researchers discovered that the results only lasted for a limited period after exercise, so planning is required. This could be why holidays often revive passion – we’re likely to take more exercise.
Only got 2 minutes?
Try: Stretch using resistance bands.
How often? Five days a week.
Health benefits: This is a great way to release upper body tension if you spend hours hunched over a laptop or computer. According to a study published in the medical journal Pain, office workers reported 37% less pain in their upper body after stretching with a resistance band for just two minutes.
Make it work for you: To release tension in the upper body, hold your band with your left hand and raise it up and over your shoulder. Put your right hand around your right side and behind your waist, up towards the band. Hold the band in both hands (with your left hand over your left shoulder and your right hand around your back on the right-hand side of your waist), pull the band tight for a few seconds and then swap sides. Repeat this process five times.
DISCLAIMER: Before starting any diet or exercise plan, you should speak to your doctor. You must not rely on the information on this website/newsletter as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.