Can Mini Workouts Throughout The Day Be As Beneficial As A Continuous Workout?

Does your busy schedule keep you from getting in a solid workout?

I mean, 45 minutes to an hour spent working out…ain’t nobody got time for that, right? 

If you find yourself skipping workouts simply because of a schedule that doesn’t seem to allow enough time to commit to physical fitness…you’re in luck! 

Recent studies are shaking up the notion that your daily workout needs to be completed in a single lengthy session. 

That’s right, small, or “mini,” workouts done over the course of the entire day may be just as, or more, effective!


The Science Behind Mini Workouts

Mini workouts? What gives? I mean, didn’t we learn all throughout our schooling that we’re supposed to exercise roughly 30+ minutes a day at least 5 times a week. 

150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, right? 

Well, a study conducted in 2018 put this theory to the test, and shorter bursts of exercise produced just as big, if not bigger wins in the weight loss and physical fitness category! 

This study examined the effects of weekly physical activity conducted in sessions of time consisting of 10 minutes or less. 

The findings? These mini workouts (10 minutes or less of physical activity) conducted throughout each day were equally as effective as spending an hour or more at the gym.

Another study looked at the effects of such short bursts of exercise regarding overweight women and found that three 10 minute increments of exercise (of moderate to vigorous intensity) were just as effective for losing weight as a single 30 minute session of exercise or even two 15 minute sessions in a given day. 

And, another study involving tabata exercises done in one single session of exercise versus several small sessions done throughout a given day found the benefits to cardiovascular fitness, resting metabolic rate, and body composition to be the same. 

Mini Workout Benefits

Okay, so “survey says”…mini workouts are a win! 

But, in what ways? 

Time– So, we’ll start by stating the obvious. If you struggle with finding time within your day to fit in a lengthier workout, breaking those sessions up into smaller “mini” workouts is definitely beneficial.

By spreading out physical activity into smaller workouts, you can still accomplish your health and fitness goals without stressing about finding time to fit in a longer workout into your busy day. 

Improved Mood– Studies show that even fitting in bursts of 3-5 minutes of physical activity throughout your day can boost your mood. 

Better Focus, Better Brain– Brief sessions of physical activity can not only improve your mood, but they can also sharpen your focus, improve your memory skills, and enhance creativity. 

Lower Blood Pressure– One study conducted found that three 10 minute walks per day lowered blood pressure in participants more than one 30 minute walk (in prehypertensive participants). 

Overall Heart Health– Consistent with the findings regarding blood pressure, studies show that short, frequent sessions of exercise are even better for your heart than longer periods of exercise done less often. 

Reduces Stress– Physical activity produces endorphins, a hormone responsible for feelings of happiness. Incorporating physical activity several times throughout a given day prompts the release of these happy hormones multiple times, keeping stress from becoming too overwhelming. (This is the same reason your mood improves with short bursts of exercise.)

Zero In– Breaking your workout up into several smaller sessions throughout the day allows you to zero in on specific areas, making those sessions more focused and intentional as opposed to a lengthier workout where you may tire more easily. 

Commitment– Committing to smaller workout sessions done throughout the day may be easier for some individuals if longer sessions seem daunting. 

Intensity– Working out in a shorter time frame allows you to push yourself to perform at a greater intensity, which may not be sustainable for longer workouts. 

Mini Workout Tips

When implementing mini workouts into your day, be sure to consider the following: 

  • Plan ahead to be sure you are including a mixture/variety of types of exercise in your mini workouts. You don’t want to solely focus on one type of training or muscle group. 

    For instance, if it’s leg day, simply spread out your typical leg day exercises into smaller session. Or, if you’ve already done some resistance training earlier in the week, don’t forget to include a day focused on cardia, such as a brisk walk or run over several small sessions on another day.

    And, don’t forget to bring any clothing or equipment needed if you’re away from home for your workout sessions.
  • Don’t just plan your type of workout, also seek to plan the timing of your sessions. If you wing it, you may find yourself not having enough time even for smaller workouts. So, plan the times when you’ll incorporate your mini workouts. 

    Maybe your workout schedule will look like this: morning break, lunchtime, afternoon break, after work. Or, perhaps you’re at home with your children and your workouts coincide with their day: before kids wake up, during the kids’ morning snack, during afternoon nap, right after kids go to sleep (night).
  • Avoid overcomplicating your mini workout sessions by simply taking a typical 30-45 minute workout and breaking it up into 10 minute increments spread throughout your typical day. 
  • If you can, find a workout buddy. Working out with a friend keeps you both motivated and generally produces greater success…even when done in shorter bursts. 

Try This…

Remember, the benefits to be gained by doing mini workouts are contingent upon completing these sessions as you would in a continuous workout, at a moderate to vigorous level of intensity. 

One description of moderate exercise is “a brisk walking pace that boosts your heart rate enough to make it hard to carry on a normal conversation.”

And, vigorous exercise is described as “a jog, a team sports game, a solid hike, or carrying heavy loads.”

Some experts recommend performing mini workouts in a HIIT or tabata style where you would incorporate roughly 5 exercises in 2 minute increments including rest (30 seconds of work, followed by 30 seconds of rest for 2 minutes, then switch exercises and repeat).

Other mini workout ideas:

  1. Within a 10 minute workout session, seek to do the following as many times as possible: 
  • 10 squats
  • 10 pushups
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 20 second plank
  • 10 glute bridges
  • 20 seconds of rest
  1. A familiar exercise for runners, you can also carve out 10 minute sessions to do hill repeats, while adding in a bit of body weight resistance training: 
  • Find a small-medium sized hill and run or briskly walk to the top of the hill.
  • At the top of the hill, do 10 squats and 15 lunges.
  • Walk back down the hill. 
  • Repeat for the duration of the workout. 
  1. Keep it simple for some aerobic exercise and simply carve out 10 minutes of time for a brisk walk around the block. 
  1. If you’re at home or near gym equipment, take 10 minutes here and there throughout your day to hop on a rowing machine, elliptical, or stair climber and get in several small sweat sessions. 
  1. Here’s a sample 10 minute full body training session that incorporates 5 movements, 45 seconds of work followed by 15 seconds of rest for each movement, repeated: 
  • Pushups
  • Slow squats
  • Stationary lunges
  • Tricep dips
  • Bicep curls

Keep in mind that you can up your intensity level (with effort and/or weight amounts) to further progress towards your fitness goals with mini workouts the same way you would in a continuous workout. 

And, don’t forget to appropriately warm up and cool down with each session to avoid injury.

*As always, talk with your doctor before beginning any new workout regimen if you have underlying health conditions to find the best exercises for your personal needs. 

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