Time is a finite resource, and most of us already feel like we don’t have enough of it. Between work, family obligations, and other adulting we need to do from one day to the next, exercise can quickly end up on the backburner.
And with everything else that’s been going on in the world this year, I’ve found it harder to dedicate as much time to exercise as I used to.
So for the past little while, I’ve been only doing 10-15 minute workouts during the week, and saving my longer workouts for the weekend.
But you might be wondering: Are mini workouts effective? I wondered too, so I took a look at the research to find out.
Spoiler alert: Workout sessions between 10-15 minutes might be more effective than you think!
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What Science Tells Us
Short workouts are a hot topic and there is certainly no shortage of relevant studies to parse through.
One such study finds that even just 15 minutes of exercise a day can boost life expectancy and slash the risk of death.
Another study concludes that just 11 minutes a day, 3 days a week may be enough to increase your resting metabolic rate. That means you burn more calories throughout the day even when you’re just sitting around!
Lastly, research finds that splitting a 30-minute workout into three 10 minute sessions isn’t just as effective, it might actually be better.
So it seems we already have answered the question, “are mini workouts effective?”
But the research also shares a common theme: It’s not so much about the duration of the workout, but the type and intensity of exercise that counts.
For example, a 160 lb person can burn roughly 100 calories with 10-minutes of HIIT. But it would take 30 minutes of easy walking for that person to burn the same amount of calories. (I like this calculator for comparing calorie burn in 10-minute increments.).
The bottom line? A 10-minute walk around the block – while still vastly better than nothing – is not going to be as effective as 10-minutes of all-out, high-intensity exercise.
Other Benefits of Mini Workouts
Now we know that mini-workouts are effective for improving your health, but there are few other perks that come with shorter sweat sessions, such as:
You’re less likely to overtrain
With endurance exercise or longer workouts, there’s always that risk that you might push yourself a little too far and strain something. Shorter workouts can mitigate the risk of injury from overtraining. (That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to injure yourself in 10 minutes – so don’t skip the warm-up!)
It’s easier to schedule
Obviously, it’s easier to find 10 minutes to workout than to find 30-40 minutes. Whether it’s a quick cycle session before work or a lunchtime HIIT workout, you can get it done without needing to shuffle other things around in your daily schedule.
You’re more likely to stay motivated
Exercising with regularity is the secret sauce when it comes to getting results. And because it’s easier to schedule, it’s also easier to stick to. On those days you don’t feel like working out, it’s a lot easier to suck it up and get it done when you know the light at the end of the tunnel is only ten minutes away.
PS – If you struggle with motivation to exercise, you might benefit from my Ultimate Guide to Fitness Motivation.
What Kind of Mini Workouts Should You Do?
NOTE: I am not a doctor or a professional personal trainer. The following is for informational purposes only and you should always check with your doctor before making changes to your exercise regime.
If you want to get the most from those few minutes, it’s best to choose exercises that will get your heart rate up quickly.
But exactly what exercises should you do?
There are lots of options out there, so I’m going to list out a few of the ones that work best for me
You can either take the free, DIY approach or a more guided, long-term approach:
The Free Approach
And last I checked, the Nike Training Club app had some great shorter workouts, all available for free.
Alternatively, you easily convert my Trello Workout Builder into a daily 10-minute challenge, which you can get for free when you sign up to my email list. (This post talks all about the Workout Builder and how to use it to design customized workouts for free.)
The Cost-Effective Approach: Serial Starter Fix
If you’re could use something a tiny bit more structured but not prepared to drop a lot of money on an app, I created a more cost-effective option: Serial Starter Fix.
This 4-week workout plan is all about the mini-workouts.
Each day you’re scheduled to complete one of the following:
- A strength training circuit ranging from 12-21 minutes
- A bonus step count challenge (and all steps count, so you can break up your walking sessions throughout the day
- 1-2, 15-minute cardio days – any kind of cardio you want, and you can break it up into shorter sessions as well
The workout guide is a printable PDF with large graphics and fonts so you can easily follow the workouts without your phone or the internet. It also comes with a printable progress tracker where you can record your weight and measurements.
And because you’re a reader of The Fit Careerist, you can grab it for 20% using the code THEFIX20 until 11:55 pm on November 1st, 2020!
The Paid Subscription Approach
Again, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the DIY/freebie approach, but investing in some tools to help you can really help you maximize the effectiveness of your mini workouts. Especially since you don’t have to waste any time hunting down a new free video or putting together your own workout.
And for me, that makes it 100% easier to stick to working out regularly.
You just click play on the app of your choice and off you go!
In my opinion, these three apps the most fun, effective, and satisfying mini-workouts:
There is simply no better audio-guided workout app than Aaptiv. It marries customization with an easy-to-use interface so that you can generate the perfect workout plan for you.
One such setting is your workout duration preference. If all you have is 15 minutes, you can find guided workouts between 4-15 minutes for running outside, cycling, yoga, strength training, pilates, and more. (Of course, longer sessions are available too!)
I personally love using it for indoor cycling.
Best of all, you can test it out for 30 days for free!
Jillian Michaels’ Workout Generator
But one of my favorite things about the JM app is the workout generator. If you only have time for a short workout, simply toggle the 10-minute setting and choose your difficulty setting. From there, you can choose to do a full-body workout, target specific muscle groups, or get a quick cardio sesh in.
The JM app also offers a 7-day free trial.
Figure 8 Express
Not long ago, I gave Figure 8 Fitness’ primary program a rave review. But they also have another program called Figure 8 Express, which is a program consisting of multiple, mini dance workouts that you can do anytime, anywhere.
Ideal if you love to dance and need a good, core-focused workout. Initially, I didn’t think there was any point in doing a workout called “10-minute abs”, but my burning obliques five minutes in showed me otherwise!
Honestly, you will be shocked at how much your abs can burn in such a short time!
Conclusion: Are Mini Workouts Effective? Yes!
If you hit it hard for 10-15 minutes every day, you stand to see some positive changes in your energy levels, weight, and overall health. If you can work intermittent exercise throughout the day with two or three 10-minute sessions, even better!
Just remember that exercise is just one piece of your overall health. It’s just as important to combine your mini workouts with other healthy habits like stretching, getting enough sleep, and tracking your macronutrients.
Now you know what to do next time you have 10 minutes to spare!