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Micro-workout benefits and expert tips on how to to get started in just 20 seconds

No time to work out? Micro-workouts can help change that.
Fitting an hour of exercise into your busy day can feel impossible, but proponents of micro-workouts say they offer a way to get exercise in more approachable chunks.
Micro-workouts are a “relatively small commitment in time and intensity for a relatively big payoff,” explains Walter Gjergja, former professional athlete and co-founder and chief wellness officer at fitness app Zing Coach.
What are micro-workouts?
Also called mini workouts or exercise “snacks,” micro-workouts involve short bursts of movement, done multiple times a day, to add up to a larger overall workout.
“Ideally, we want to total up to 15 minutes or more and spread that 15 minutes throughout the day,” Gjergja says. “There is substantial research that shows that this type of very short but high-intensity bursts has a profound impact to our physiology, to our health, to all kinds of markers of of fitness.”
Gjergja says micro-workouts can fall into two categories: 20- to 60-second workouts, or sessions that last a bit longer, around 3 to 7 minutes.
“They have to be over 20 seconds, otherwise the efficiency is really very minimal, but they are a short burst of relatively intense movement and intense exercise,” he explains. For example, this may look like running up stairs for 20 seconds or running in place for a minute.
He also doesn’t advise going longer than 10 minutes if you’re aiming for a micro-workout, since that length of time “involves a more steady effort,” he explains.
Micro-workout benefits
The first — and perhaps most obvious — benefit of micro-workouts is fitting some movement into your day.
Even with only 3 to 7 minutes to spare, Gjergja says you can take a “mini journey of the three main areas of fitness,” which are cardiovascular, muscular and flexibility.
For example, you could structure your micro-workout as a couple of minutes of push-ups, squats or sit-ups for strength, a couple of minutes of cardio exercise like jumping jacks, and a couple of minutes of stretching for mobility.
“You get immediate coverage of all the critical aspects of fitness and well-being in a very short period of time,” he says.
Research has also pointed to benefits of a few minutes of vigorous activity throughout today.
An observational study published in JAMA Oncology last year found that doing four to five minutes a day of “vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity — such as one- to two-minute bursts of fast walking or stair climbing — is associated with a “substantially lower cancer risk” compared to those who did no such activity. Even quick strolls — as short as 5 minutes every half hour — throughout the day can go a long way for your health, other research shows.
Other benefits of micro-workouts include being able to do them practically anywhere, since they don’t require equipment or much space, and that they can help you build towards more long-lasting exercise habits.
“Usually to start with a small commitment, it’s far more effective than to jump in fully into a (larger) activity (or) gym membership,” Gjergja explains. “The moment you are convenient to just a few minutes (that) are manageable within your home or office space, suddenly the creation of that habit is much easier.”
Tips to start micro-workouts
Incorporate it into daily life:
Whether sitting at your desk, doing household chores or watching TV (hello, Super Bowl commercials!), movement can be sprinkled into your typical routine.
For example, if you take just a minute from every hour of your work day for push-ups or sit-ups, you can easily reach hundreds of reps by the end of your shift.
“That is a substantial muscular workout, especially for somebody who doesn’t usually train,” Gjergja says. “And you’ve done it with virtually no commitment at all.”
During a recent appearance on “CBS Mornings” to discuss heart health, CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook talked about a similar way to “hack” movement into your day.
“If you’re commuting to work, how about commuting 10 blocks before work and then walk? If you’re taking the elevator to the 22nd floor, take it seven floors under that and walk,” he suggested. “Make it so that you’re not saying, ‘OK, now I have to do exercise’ — exercise becomes just part and parcel of how you live your life.”
Set your workout “menu”:
Gjergja suggests preparing a “menu of exercises” that you can do safely and in the environment and clothes you’ll be in.
“Don’t improvise,” he says. “Test that you can do this exercise and it’s physiologically comfortable for you.”
If you’re looking to increase the intensity of the micro-workouts, you can try harder movements like burpees or incorporate a pair of dumbells or elastic exercise bands.

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