About 80 percent of adults in the U.S. don’t get enough exercise, according to the CDC. You know that exercise is good for you, but do you know that it can also make you feel happier, improve cognition, delay aging, shrink fat cells and recuperate from chronic illness? Dr. Mercola says that physical fitness is the basis of optimal health.
If you think that you don’t have enough time in your busy life to exercise, think again. Research shows that adding just 12 minutes of exercise to your day can improve cardiovascular health and reduce blood pressure. Other studies have found that 15-minute bouts of exercise might be more effective for improving hypertension, arterial health and endurance than 30-minute sessions. While you should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week, you can work exercise into your daily life to increase motivation, keep up the momentum and instill healthy habits for the long term.
You might feel like exercising isn’t worth it unless you’re getting your heart rate up, sweating profusely and breathing heavily. This is a formula for burnout, though. If you’re just beginning to exercise and aiming to work out for 30 minutes to an hour every day, it’s easy to find excuses not to do it when you’re tired or have a busy schedule lined up.
Starting with a few minutes of exercise creates momentum that you can build on. Set a goal to work out for five or ten minutes each day. Everyone can find an extra five-minute chunk of time, but not everyone feels like they can devote an hour to a daily workout.
You can get on the floor for 5 minutes after waking up and do crunches, or do plyometrics while you’re waiting for the shower to heat up. Time yourself so that you can congratulate yourself when you reach your goal.
Once you work in a few minutes of exercise a day, you start to realize that you can make it a habit. You might get the urge to extend your exercise session. On the days that you don’t feel like working out, do at least five minutes. It will keep you consistent and prevent you from feeling like a failure.
As you establish a regular workout routine, you may find that you exert self-control in other areas of your life. Some researchers found that people who exercised once a week for a month and then three times a week for the next month experienced:
- Less procrastination
- More emotional control
- An ability to save more money
- Less consumption of junk food
- The desire to eat healthier
- Less time watching TV
- More time studying
- Better punctuality
Here are some of the best 10-minute workouts online to inspire you.
Exercise In The Morning
Your morning routine is probably fairly consistent. It’s the one time of day where you can set your own schedule. How often does someone call you at 6 a.m. to schedule a meeting? Do you ever have appointments that early in the morning? Not likely.
Planning to exercise as soon as you wake up eliminates the chance that you’ll make up excuses to skip it. Sure, you might say that you’re too tired to work out in the morning. If you start by setting your alarm just five minutes earlier, you won’t even notice the change.
Another excuse is that working out before breakfast makes you feel hungry. If that’s the case, take an organic pre-workout supplement to boost your energy without filling up your belly.
Get Better Sleep
If you don’t feel rested upon waking, you might have trouble getting out of bed to work out. On the other hand, exercising during the day can make you sleep better at night. This seems like a catch-22: if you don’t sleep well, you don’t feel like exercising, and if you don’t exercise, you may not sleep well.
You can improve your quality of sleep in a number of ways. Harvard Medical School suggests the following:
- Avoid chemicals like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, which can interfere with sleep
- Keep your bedroom quiet and dark to make it conducive to good sleep
- Create a calming bedtime routine
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
- Don’t nap late in the day
- Don’t work out within three hours of bedtime
- Don’t eat a heavy meal before bed
Add A Walk To Your Routine
You can walk anywhere, anytime without buying fancy equipment. You can even stroll around your office at lunchtime without changing into workout gear. Of course, supportive shoes are a plus, but you can sneak a five-to-ten-minute walk into your day no matter what you’re wearing.
Once you’re in the habit of walking more, you might find that you crave it. The exercise may feel good, and walking activates soothing neurons in the brain, which can help relieve stress and improve your mood.
Plus, it’s a lot easier to get motivated to stroll down the street than it is to get pumped for a super-intense workout. Better yet, take a walk to the gym to gradually work up the motivation for a hard-core sweat session.
Keep Your Equipment Handy
If you have to drag your treadmill out of the garage every time you want to use it, how often are you really going to take advantage of it? Work exercise into your everyday routine by keeping your fitness equipment at your fingertips.
This might mean that you have to invest in some new gear. There are lots of convenient fitness products that are affordable and don’t take up a lot of space. Some ideas include:
- Resistance bands for strength exercises – Do squats with the band around your knees while you brush your teeth.
- Light weights – Grab them before you head out for a walk.
- An EZ curl bar – Leave it by your bed so that you can get a few reps in when you wake up.
- A pull-up bar – Hang from it to strengthen your lats while you watch TV.
- An aerobic step – Use it for bodyweight exercises, like lunges and tricep dips.
Create Workout Cues
Researchers have found that people who exercise consistently develop triggers that prompt them to get moving. This is known as an instigation habit. When the cue happens, you don’t have to think about whether to go to the gym. You don’t deliberate or make excuses. You simply start your workout.
Using a regular workout cue can help you develop a routine that becomes hard to break. It can take some time to create this habit, though. Also, the same cue doesn’t work for everyone.
Some examples of instigation cues include:
- Going straight to the gym at the end of a workday
- Taking a walk as soon as you put your sneakers on (and leaving your sneakers out where you can see them)
- Doing 20 burpees when you get a craving for sweets
- Using a workout song as your alarm and going for a run as soon as it wakes you up in the morning.
- Laying out your workout gear—shoes, clothes, CrossFit gloves, etc.—the night before so that you see them first thing when you wake up.
- Use a fitness app with reminders, or set a specific notification that reminds you to exercise.
Creating these cues helps you work out consistently but leaves room for variety. You don’t have to do the same workout every day. You can be confident that you’ll retain the habit whether the cue sets you up to go to the gym or head to the park for a tennis match.
Try HIIT Training
Runner’s World says that the average person burns about 100 calories per mile of running. That depends on your weight, metabolism and pace, though. Someone who weighs 155 pounds might burn 234 calories on a 2-mile run that takes 25 minutes. A 125-pound person who runs the same distance at the same pace will only burn about 189 calories.
If you’re short on time, it might seem pointless to spend 20 minutes burning off the calorie equivalent of a protein shake. If you’re trying to lose weight, you may not see results all that quickly, and it’s hard to stay motivated when you don’t see progress.
HIIT training burns more calories in less time. Therefore, you might notice a better outcome when you work it into your everyday life.
HIIT training involves doing short bursts of exercise at maximum intensity with short periods of recovery in between. Dr. Martin Gibala, who developed the One Minute Workout, squeezes in three 20-second intervals at an intense capacity for a total of ten minutes with short recovery periods in between. Although you go all-out while you’re exerting yourself, you don’t feel as exhausted as you might from a relentless, moderate jog because of the rest intervals.
Studies show that HIIT training can burn up to 30% more calories than steady running, biking or strength training. HIIT can also raise your post-exercise metabolism more than jogging or strength training.
Track Your Progress
Most people are familiar with Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian. What you may not know about him is that he developed a motivational practice to help you reach your goals. His “Don’t Break The Chain” practice is a way to establish consistency with anything that you do in life.
The way it works is that you set a daily goal. Make it achievable. When you reach that goal, mark a large X on that day on your calendar. Within a few days, you’ll want to keep going just because you don’t want to break the chain on the calendar.
This works because when you finish a task, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel good. This reward makes you want to do that same task again.
Combine that with the psychology of loss aversion, and you have yourself a sticky habit. The loss aversion tendency explains that people are more likely to take action to prevent losing something good than to gain something rewarding.
This also explains why it’s easier to keep the chain going than to get it started. Even though you know that it will feel good to start exercising, you may avoid it to continue doing other things that are comfortable, such as sleeping late and sitting on the couch watching TV. Once you get the chain going, however, you’re likely to maintain it because you don’t want to experience the feeling of self-defeat that comes from skipping a day.
Sneak In An Invisible Workout
You can do many exercises while sitting in a chair. Some are so subtle that no one has to know you’re doing them.
Seated abdominal bracing can be an effective way to strengthen your transverse abdominis and internal obliques. It can also support your spine, improve your posture and prevent injury.
To do this exercise, sit up straight with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your feet planted firmly on the ground. Brace your belly as though someone was about to punch you. This move is even more effective when you extend your legs.
Change The Way You Work
If you have an office job, consider walking while you work. Take a meeting on your phone so that you can go for a brisk walk while you chat. You can even propose conducting in-person walking meetings.
In one study, participants were asked to come up with a metaphor that was equivalent to the concept of a budding cocoon. Only 50% of people who stayed seated could complete the task, whereas 95% of the walkers came up with a decent answer.
Walking during work not only helps you accomplish your fitness goals, but it can also allow you to brainstorm ideas.