Micro-Workouts: These Small Exercises Have Huge Impacts

Written by Stefanie Lisa, CPT, CFN

Micro-Workouts

Even if you are exercising regularly, if you’re like most people, you spend much of your day sitting behind a desk and much of your evenings firmly planted on your rear end while spending time on your favorite device. And new research is showing that even a full hour of exercise daily isn’t enough to combat this type of overwhelmingly sedentary lifestyle.

And if you don’t like long bouts of exercise (or just don’t have time for them) or aren’t quite up for extensive high-intensity interval training on a regular basis, you could be at an even greater risk for the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle on your health.

Fortunately, we can reap big rewards from micro-workouts — these little mini bursts of activity can add up in a big way and might be just what the doctor ordered!

What are Micro-Workouts?

Micro-workouts may be the perfect thing for today’s society where everyone wants virtually instant results with very little expended effort. While many people are still slogging it out for hours at a gym, the “old-fashioned way,” there’s a large contingent who will only exercise if it’s convenient, quick, and fits into their hectic lifestyles.

So, does this mean these folks are out of luck then when it comes to exercise? No! It turns out that science has once again revealed a happy shortcut when it comes to getting fit, and it just so happens you can fit the solution into the pockets of your day.

How is this possible?

It’s feasible due to the magic of high-intensity exercise, which, in a nutshell, is exactly what micro-workouts are. Micro-workouts are small short breaks (just 30 seconds to 10 minutes) to expend extra energy you take from your normal sedentary state throughout the day. The more frequent these small burst of energy, the better. Researchers have even come up with a scientific moniker for these micro-workouts: (HIIPA) High Intensity Incidental Physical Activity.

According to Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle, and Population Health in the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health, “Regular incidental activity that gets you huffing and puffing even for a few seconds has great promise for health.” He goes on to say, “There is a lot of research telling us that any type of HIIT, irrespective of the duration and number of repetitions, is one of the most effective ways to rapidly improve fitness and cardiovascular health, and HIIPA works on the same idea.”

What are the Risks of Inactivity?

You may think these quick workouts couldn’t possibly make a difference in your life. You may be tempted to just continue on with your sedentary lifestyle, but hopefully, these alarming facts will spur you to get up out of your chair and at least try some micro-workouts for yourself. Studies show people who move very little are at greater risk for many of the following health-related issues:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased incidence of cancers
  • Possibility of developing diabetes
  • Greater risk of coronary heart disease
  • High percentage of depression
  • Weight gain
  • Greater possibility of falling
  • Brittle bones
  • Inflexibility
  • Muscle imbalances

This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but it should be reason enough to jump up and, at the very minimum, give this popular new form of activity a try for yourself.

Why Micro-Workouts Are an Exciting New Revelation

Clearly, everyone needs to work out or at least move their bodies on a regular basis, but very few are actually getting it done. This new research proves you can get fit on a shoestring time budget, so all excuses have virtually been erased (in case you were still trying to come up with a reason to not get moving).


Researchers say that taking a walk in the morning for at least 30 minutes is helpful when it comes to reducing your risk of health issues (old news), but in breaking news (and this is big), if you combine that walk with short and regular bursts of activity throughout the rest of the day, your health markers increase significantly. These bursts of activity add up to a much healthier you over time when done on a daily, consistent, and long-term basis.

Some of the other benefits of micro-workouts include:

  • With HIIPA, you can reap benefits that are similar to what you would with traditional exercise.
  • You may actually do this type of exercise (it’s easily doable).
  • HIIPA can burn significant calories throughout the day.
  • You can radically improve your health markers across the board.
  • You don’t need to set aside time for formal exercise.
  • You don’t need to spend money on a fitness facility.
  • You can work around most injuries.
  • You won’t stress your joints.
  • You don’t need gym clothes.
  • No time commitment.
  • No driving or parking needed.
  • Reduce depression.
  • Lose weight.
  • Gain muscle tone.
  • Gain functional strength.
  • No trainer needed.

Do These Micro-Workouts Today!

By now, you are surely eager to give these micro-workouts a try. Incidental physical activity does not (in spite of popular past opinions) need to be “at least ten minutes in length” to “count.” Instead, try fitting in multiple sporadic bursts of action throughout your day, for example:

  • Running to your car
  • Taking the stairs
  • Parking excessively far away
  • Pushing a cart
  • Jumping jacks
  • Pushups
  • Jogging in place
  • Bouncing on a rebounder
  • Jumping rope
  • Skipping
  • Biking
  • Shooting some hoops
  • Kicking a ball
  • Housework
  • Gardening
  • Walking the dog

Note: you can also ramp up the effectiveness of these micro-workouts by making your activity choice more intense (thus closer, in essence, to a true high-intensity interval training workout). Think about adding some things like a sprint, kettlebell swings, pullups, bicycle sprints, and more. These workouts take only 30 seconds to 10 minutes, so it really is easy to fit several exercises in throughout your day!

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