A growing body of research suggests that sneaking in one or several 10-minute bouts of exercise can deliver impressive health and fitness benefits.
That’s good to know, especially in winter, when ice, snow, cold, lack of light, and—face it—low or no motivation encourage us to move less, sit more, and eat holiday goodies for comfort.
- Brief workouts help beginning exercisers ease into a more active life. Begin with one 10-minute block and work up to three or more a day. Of course, you could gradually stretch any of these to 12, 15, or 20 minutes if the situation permits.
Veteran exercisers and athletes can use a 10- or 15-minute workout as a motivational tool on those days when they lose their oomph and can’t work up the get up and go. When that happens to you, negotiate with your lower angels. Say, “Okay, we don’t have to bike for an hour. We’ll only go for 10 minutes.” I’ve found this trick effective. After a few minutes, I almost always find myself willing to stretch it to 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or even longer.
A few favorites
So, what constitutes a 10-minute workout? Simple: keep that body in motion for 10 minutes.
Most exercise specialists say intensity—getting your heart rate up to the point of discomfort, and keeping it up for several minutes—works best for maintaining or increasing overall fitness. Warm up slowly for a couple of minutes before you pump up the intensity; slow down for a couple of minutes toward the end.
If you’re pregnant, sedentary, severely overweight, suffering from a chronic disease or injury, talk to your doctor before beginning any high-intensity exercise, even short bouts of it.
Jump for joy
Jumping rope for 10 minutes will give you a rip-roarin’ workout. It burns more calories than running. It boosts your mood. It improves your balance and your body’s natural rhythm. You can jump indoors or out. You can pack your rope and jump on vacation. You don’t need fancy clothes. You don’t even need a rope. Twirling your wrists as if you had one works about as well.
Start by marching or running in place for a minute or two, then begin jumping slowly. Beginners can try alternating 30 jumps with 30 steps of marching in place. (Even after years of hard-core triathlon training, it took me two months to work up to a few minutes of glitch-free jumping.)
- Learn the basics and a few intermediate tricks
Need inspiration? Check out these kids.
Having trouble concentrating at work (even at home)? Pull out that pair of shoes you keep under your desk and substitute a snack break for a brisk 10-minute walk or trot around the perimeter of the parking lot, grounds, or driveway
During the winter months, parking lots and driveways are nearly always plowed and sanded or salted for safety.
Physical exercise helps break the abstraction of “knowledge work” and the fatigue of repetitive-motion physical work. I’ll testify that it works wonders for breaking writer’s block.
Most of us spend a lot of time waiting: for a child to have his teeth cleaned or finish her swimming lesson, for the doctor after you’re told she’s running 30 minutes late, for a car repair, for the casserole to bake. Just keep a pair of comfortable shoes at the ready, check your watch, and head out.
Step it up
Stuck indoors at home with a small child? Dinner in the oven? Turn on some tunes and work those stairs! Warm up with a slow half-dozen flights up and down. Then charge up, walk down, charge up again, walk down, and repeat. Note: This workout requires stairways, strong knees, good balance, and good concentration, especially going down, to avoid falls. Add more work to this effort by swinging light hand weights as you go up.
If you work in an office building with several floors and well-lit stairwells, or have an appointment in one, walk up and down the stairs for a few minutes. Hold the handrail going down in case you feel dizzy.
Deep-snow after-dark shuffle
I discovered this one many years ago while homebound with a sick child during a three-day blizzard. I bundled up and pulled on my insulated boots after dinner, turned on the outside light, and began tramping around the unplowed circular driveway. The deep snow and my clunky boots cushioned the impact and offered muscle-building resistance. The heavy snow muffled noise from the street and falling snow transformed the night. I’ve continued this magical practice every year during big snowstorms, running, walking, skipping, jumping, or shuffling, often for much longer than 10 minutes.
Remember the old saw about necessity, the mother of invention? In our wood-burning household, we have to cart firewood from the woodshed into the house every day to stay warm. When it’s my turn to load the living-room woodbox, I begin with few shoulder raises with a couple of heavy chunks, perform half-squats with a heavy armload, push the big-wheeled wood carrier around the driveway four or five times before I bring the wood indoors.
You get the idea here, stretch almost any necessary job into an energetic 10-minute workout.
You have a flight ahead, during which you’ll probably sit most of the time. Your flight doesn’t leave for an hour or two or more. Although large airports offer plenty of opportunities to eat, drink, shop, and sit, why not walk the concourse? Many large airports offer special walking paths or fitness spaces. I’ve never used one of these, but I’ve logged as many as three miles of brisk walking throughout the concourses before boarding a flight.
What do you do with your carry-on luggage? Well, you could roll it or carry it, rent a locker and stash it, or do what I do, carry it all in a backpack and hike along with it.
You’ve arrived at the supermarket with a two-page grocery list and found the parking lot full. You have to park a football field away from the door. Time for action!
Pull on your action-ready shoes and make at least two full trips around the outside perimeter of the parking lot before you go into the store. Wend your way up and down the center aisles, collecting items on your list as you go. Then walk back along the same route in reverse, picking up anything you might have missed. Now push the cart twice around the interior perimeter of the store, collecting the fresh stuff: fruit and vegetables, eggs, dairy products, poultry, and meat the second time around.
After you’ve checked out, make another brisk turn or two around the parking lot perimeter with your full cart. Watch for traffic!
A final note: Poke around in the activities of your ordinary days for opportunities like these to boost your activity level. Don’t forget to fidget!
Read more: Winter exercise tips: no excuses!