So many of us struggle to fit exercise into our busy lives and even with the best intentions, we won't do it because we think we need to find at least 45 minutes to an hour for it to be beneficial.
Unless we have that time, we don't bother. But research shows us time and time again that smaller chunks of activity may be the way to go for a whole host of health benefits.
• SHORT BOUTS OF EXERCISE EFFECTIVE IN REDUCING BLOOD PRESSURE
Studies show exercise is helpful in controlling blood pressure, but breaking up the workout into three short sessions is significantly more effective than the single half-hour session. The fractionised exercise led to lower average 24-hour blood pressure readings. For people who think that 30 minutes of exercise is too hard or takes up too much time, we can just do 10 minutes, three times during the day. And, conversely, if someone is tempted to dismiss a mere 10 minutes of walking as too meagre to be meaningful, it seems clear that, at least for blood pressure control, fractionised exercise is actually "more effective" than a single 30-minute bout.
• REDUCE CHOLESTEROL RISK, DECREASE WEIGHT GAIN
A study published from Canada found that in children and teenagers, repeated bouts of running or other physical activity lasting as little as five minutes at a time reduced the youngsters' risks of poor cholesterol profiles, wide waistlines and above-average blood pressure readings as much as longer exercise sessions did. Other studies have found that exercising sporadically throughout the day aids in weight control, particularly for older women. It also, in a few small studies, improved aerobic fitness among previously sedentary people as much as a single, longer workout did and, as a regimen, was more likely to be maintained over the long term.
• FIVE-MINUTE FRACTIONS FOR EPOC
Just five minutes of intense exercise can provide a metabolic effect, due to a concept known as excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. After training, your body needs to burn extra calories to repair muscle cells, redistribute blood flow and return it to its pre-exercise state. This extra calorie expenditure requires an increase in metabolism, and can be achieved with a hard five-minute workout.
Try some of these easy five-minute workout ideas:
1. Interval sprints
Set yourself up at a running track or on a treadmill. Sprint as fast as you can for 20 seconds, then lightly jog for 40 seconds, and repeat this five times. While your pace will drop slightly, still aim to run as quickly as possible on all your sprints. Short duration interval sprints not only boost your metabolism, but may also help to increase your endurance and training capacity.
2. Body weight circuit
Pick four exercises - one lower body, such as squats; two upper body, like pull-ups or push-ups; and a whole body exercise like burpees or body blasters. Set a timer for five minutes and perform 10 reps on each exercise. Do the circuit as many times as you can in the five minutes. Record how many rounds you do, and aim to do more every session.
3. Density training
Density training is more of a strength-based approach to five-minute workouts, but is still effective for boosting your metabolism. Pick two exercises for opposing muscle groups, such as bench presses and barbell rows for your chest and back, or front squats and deadlifts for your quads and hamstrings. Use your 10 repetition maximum for each exercise, and perform six reps on one, then six on the other. Perform as many sets as you can in five minutes. Once you can do five sets of each, increase the weight you use.
4. Swimming in place (without the pool)
Although it won't be as refreshing as a dip in the pool, this routine will work your abs, glutes, thighs and back muscles. Lie on your stomach on a rug or exercise mat. Extend your arms along the floor in front of you. You can either look down at the floor during this exercise or raise your head. Inhale and raise your left leg and right arm at the same time. Exhale and lower both back to the floor. Inhale and repeat on the other side. Keep the motion going for up to five minutes as quickly or as slowly as you like.