Create Your Own Mini-Workout Program

People who have no time to exercise can get as fit as people who go to the gym regularly if they do multiple ten-minute exercise sessions spread throughout the day. The mini-workout approach is backed by considerable scientific research proving that one does not need to exercise continuously for 30 to 60 minutes to get results.

However, mini-workouts are not effective for all people. If you are an athlete or a serious fitness/sports buff, short exercise sessions will not be enough for your goals, but you can effectively use mini-workouts as an alternative during hectic spells in your life.

Mini-workouts are most appropriate for people who are sedentary and just beginning to exercise and for busy people with no time to work out.

Create your own program
The three main components of fitness – cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility can all be addressed with short exercise sessions according to Dr. Glenn Gaesser, head researcher of a major study at the University of Virginia.

In his book, The Spark, Gaesser recommends 15 10-minute “sparks” of activity per week. This translates to two-and-a-half hours of exercise per week or a 30-minute workout five times a week.

Gaesser divides the 15 sessions into the following:
· Seven to ten “aerobic sparks”. Examples are brisk walking, stair climbing, dancing, and calisthenics.
· Two to four “strength training sparks”. You can use dumbbells, ankle weights, rubber bands or do body weight exercises like push-ups and squats. Standing yoga poses also qualify as lower body strength training exercises.
· Two to four “flexibility sparks”. These are stretching exercises.

Any kind of physical activity is better than none but exercise researcher John Jakicic advises, “The effects are minimized significantly if you’re just strolling through the mall window-shopping”. He suggests “walking with a purpose or as if you are going to miss your train”.

You don’t need a warm-up or cool-down if you are doing light weight lifting or light stretching. Cardiovascular mini-workouts like brisk walking don’t need a warm-up either since these are normal lifestyle activities.

However, if you were going to do an all-out run as your mini-workout, then you would need to walk for two minutes as your warm-up, jog/run/sprint for six minutes, and cool-down by walking for two minutes. Only fit people should attempt vigorous mini-workouts.

Rope skipping is an excellent way to get a vigorous calorie-burning workout in ten to twelve minutes. Try skipping for three minutes and marching in place for one minute.

If you are going to climb stairs, do intervals of one minute climbing and one minute marching in place. As your endurance improves, lengthen the time spent climbing.

Keep strength-training equipment like dumbbells or rubber bands handy nearby either at work under your desk or in a corner of your bedroom. You can do muscle firming exercises at sporadic times during work or even during commercial breaks while watching television at home. There is a lot that you can accomplish in ten minutes. Next week, I’ll give you sample upper and lower body, abdominal, and stretching workouts that you can download from my website.

To make mini-workouts work for you, fit them into your daily routine. Gaesser recommends extending a walk that you normally would take. For example, if you walk to lunch everyday, lengthen the route you usually take so you get additional minutes of walking.

Condition yourself with the Pavlovian principle by linking two activities together. In his classic experiment, behavioral psychologist Ivan Pavlov conditioned dogs to salivate at the sound of a ringing bell by initially linking food with the bell. If you make it a point to walk every time you talk on your cell or cordless phone, you will find your feet automatically moving on their own as soon as you put the phone to your ear.

If you are serious about doing mini-workouts, plot out your sessions on a graph and check off each activity as you accomplish it. Beginner exercisers who keep a record of their workouts are more successful than those who don’t. When your workouts become a firmly entrenched habit, you won’t need to keep track of your progress anymore.

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