Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Most experts would agree that if exercise came in a pill, it'd be the most beneficial and widely prescribed medicine ever developed. Have you exercised today? Too bored to even move? Why not slide a few minutes of exercise intervals into an otherwise sedentary day? Most people have enough spare time to watch hours of TV, browse reddit, and take a daily 'Hollywood' shower. We all have ample time yet we chafe at the thought of exercising. For some, it becomes a monumental mental hurdle. But as my dad used to say, "If you don't have your health you have nothing". I'm going to show you how to micro-dose exercise throughout your day. It is a fast and emotionally painless way to sneak in fitness when time is limited. Plus the data shows it can be just as effective and in some cases even more so than one long bout of exercise.
I'm sure you've heard about the benefits of meditation. Like exercise it is something I strive to do regularly. Frequently I don't have the time or, if I'm being honest, the desire to do a full meditation. Therefore I will do only 1 or 2 minute on some days. It is better than nothing. This is objectively true for me. I enjoy exercise, so it's not hard for me to find the time to do it 4 or 5 days per week. You may not be such a person. I'm here to tell you that a little exercise is better than none. And perhaps doing small chunks throughout the day will make it easier to stomach. Here is what I am proposing: Take 2 or 3 little breaks during your day and spend 5 or 10 minutes micro-dosing movement. The workout does not even have to resemble traditional training so long as you get your heart rate up.
According to the latest evidence-based science, not only do multiple short sessions of exercise generally provide the same health and fitness benefits as a comparable amount of exercise completed in one uninterrupted workout, but by some measures, the briefer bouts are better. This 2012 study published in the Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise found "three 10-min aerobic exercise sessions spread out can be an effective exercise alternative to continuous exercise for cardiovascular risk reduction in this population." Three 10-minute fast paced walks spaced throughout the day improved overall blood pressure just as effectively. It also blunted subsequent spikes in pressure, which can indicate worsening blood pressure control. Brisk walking is arguably the best adapted evolutionary movement humans can perform. If you did nothing else but frequently fast walk, you'd be fitter than most Americans. This is low hanging fruit, take a bite.
Exercisers doing two 15-minute workouts
Exercisers doing one 30-minute workout
Exercisers doing three 10-minute workouts
They concluded, "that exercise accumulated in several short bouts has similar effects as one continuous bout with regard to aerobic fitness and weight loss during caloric restriction in overweight women".
Michael Joyner, M.D., an exercise researcher at the Mayo Clinic, agrees that short bursts of intense aerobic exercise can go a long way toward getting fit.
“A 5-to-10 minute workout, if done consistently, coupled with building as much cardio into your daily life by doing things like walking the dog and taking the stairs every chance you get, can all add up to get you in shape. Maybe not in enough shape to do the Iron Man, but definitely in shape,”
People who work from home are more likely to be overweight than their office worker counterparts. Unsurprisingly there are many reasons for this. The two most popular hypotheses are constant access to food and a decrease in non-exercise activity.
The biggest predictor of discretionary food intake is convenience, and food is so readily available at home. For instance, my refrigerator calls to me. Does yours? Knowing this I make an effort to enjoy ready to eat convenient foods out of the house. I keep junk and all ultra-processed ready-to-eat food products far away, not counting whole foods like fruits, vegetables, yogurt etc. With regards to culinary 'guilty pleasures', placing oneself in a near-constant state of hyper-vigilance is a Sisyphean feat. This is a fruitless undertaking and may in fact lead to over-eating. Why do this to yourself? The food environment you keep is crucially important. Once the food situation is remedied (remove all the brownies and easy to eat snacks out of your house NOW) you'll need to work on increasing your daily activity. People who work from home tend to move a lot less throughout the day. Micro-dosing on exercise will help reclaim your health and fitness. Instead of packing your cupboards with junk food, enrich your home environment by adding things that invite more movement; install a pull-up bar; leave a soccer ball or dumbbell out; put a jump rope next to the bookcase, or perhaps simply leave a space open on the floor to do sit-ups or pushups. Create a playlist easily accessible via Alexa of your favorite workout music. Change the way you see your environment. Transform it into a movement-based stronghold.
Here are a few beginner exercise snacks you can micro-dose on:
1. Jump Rope
2. Jumping Jacks
6. Fast Walk
7. Stair Climbing
11. Run in place
More Advanced snacks:
3. Jump Squats
4. Walking Lunges
5. Single leg squats
7. Tuck Jumps
8. Stair Sprints
In the perfect scenario, you want to change up your daily exercises so as to properly challenge mobility, coordination, endurance and strength. Movement should be varied in terms of volume, intensity and type. Some days move slowly in many different directions. Other days move at a moderate pace for a long period. Once in awhile try moving as fast as if your life depended on it.
Another strategy is to do some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) like a Tabata:
20 Seconds of high-intensity work (fast bodyweight squats or goblet squats with a dumbbell) – 85-95% of your maximal effort
10 Seconds rest (you can increase this rest period for up to a minute and as you progress drop the rest period down)
Repeat this 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off routine for 8 cycles (I strongly recommend doing only 3 to 4 cycles the first time out or you're likely to get nauseated).
1. Perform 8 front squats (deep) with 80% of your max weight then
2. Sprint run or bike for 20 seconds at 85-95% max
3. Rest 10 seconds
4. Repeat 8 times
Choose to do something you enjoy (or at least don't hate) and it'll become easier to stay motivated. Next time you experience boredom or stress hunger, micro-dose on exercise instead of snacking on junk. Your body and brain will thank you. Schedule a micro-dosing exercise in your calendar and make it a daily habit. Set your smart speaker to set off an alarm so you don't have to think about it.
Ok now let's put it in practice. Stand up and do 50 air squats!