Why mini-workouts can work wonders

Small bursts of exercise throughout the day are just as effective as one longer session – but there’s a catch.

If you struggle to find time to exercise, here’s some good news.

A new study has found that short bursts of physical activity – mini-workouts – can be just as effective as one concentrated session.

The research flies in the face of conventional wisdom that heart rates must be elevated for at least 10 minutes for exercise to be beneficial.

Even brief trips up and down stairs count towards accumulated exercise minutes and reduced health risks, says the Duke University School of Medicine study.

The catch? The intensity has to reach moderate or vigorous levels.

What is ‘moderate’ intensity?

Moderate exertion was defined as brisk walking at a pace that makes it difficult to carry on a conversation.

Vigorous exercise means boosting that pace to a jog.

The most dramatic improvements in overall risk of death and disease can occur with a relatively small amount of effort.

And the more bursts of exercise you do the better, says study author Professor William E Kraus.

Working out in short, sharp bursts has the same, if not greater, benefits than working out over a longer period of time.

The benefits of intermittent exercise

The University of Western Australia exercise physiologist Karen Wallman has been researching in this field for more than a decade.

“We were right there at the beginning of this exploration, with our studies finding that intermittent or interval exercising – so working out in short, sharp bursts – has the same, if not greater, benefits than working out over a longer period of time,” she says.

Prof Wallman says the Swedes coined the term “fartlek” for this type of interval training in the 1930s – long before HIIT (high intensity interval training) became popular.

“The concept is that if you rev up your system in short bursts, your excess port-exercise oxygen consumption (or EPOC) is going to be greater,” she says.

“So essentially your body will be using more oxygen and expending more calories after that exercise while your system is returning to normal.”

“If your intention is weight loss, that’s definitely a positive.”

Mini-workouts cut risk of death and disease

In the US study, people who got less than 20 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity each day had the highest risk of death.

Those who managed 60 minutes a day cut their risk of death in half.

100 magic mini-workout minutes

The study found those whose exercise bursts added up to 100 minutes a day cut their risk of death by a staggering 76 per cent.

Prof Wallman says with almost a quarter of kids and two thirds of adults in Australia overweight or obese, knowing that every small physical effort counts has huge benefits.

Watch Sam Wood show The House of Wellness TV team how to work your abs in a 60-second ad break. Want new ways to get fit? Check out the hottest fitness trends of 2018.