I’m so busy that it’s hard to stick to my exercise plan. How much exercise do I need to see benefits?
The amount of exercise that’s beneficial varies depending on an individual’s age, fitness level, type of exercise, exercise regimen, and health status. In general, any amount of physical activity is better than none, and incorporating short bursts of high-intensity exercise into your daily routine can provide health benefits.
One scientific review of published research showed that very short bursts of high-intensity exercise can improve cardiovascular and metabolic health, even in individuals with chronic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.*
Intensity is another way to look at “minimum exercise.” High-intensity interval training (HIIT) alternates short bursts of intense exercise, such as sprinting or jumping jacks, with periods of rest or low-intensity exercise. This cycle is repeated several times, usually for a total workout time of seven to 30 minutes. The health benefits include improved cardiovascular health, increased endurance and strength, and burning more calories in less time than traditional steady-state cardio workouts. It is popular among people who have limited time to exercise or who want to add variety to their routine.
An alternative mixture of low- and high-intensity movement has also been studied and shows promise for busy, sedentary adults. Low-intensity interval training (LIIT) involves alternating periods of low-intensity exercise with brief bouts of higher-intensity movement. Like its high-intensity counterpart, LIIT can improve cardiovascular and metabolic health in overweight and obese individuals, improve muscle strength and endurance in older adults, and improve insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, strength, endurance, and physical performance.
But you don’t even need a “workout routine.” Household chores or leisurely walking are considered low-intensity activities, but they are associated with a demonstrable reduction of cardiovascular risk and death from any cause when experienced regularly over a period of years.
In fact, low-intensity daily movement has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity in overweight women, improve muscle strength and function in older adults with mobility limitations, and even improve cardiovascular health in individuals with heart disease. A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine in 2018 found that low-intensity movement may even improve cognitive function and brain health in older adults. Overall, the studies suggest that low-intensity physical activity can provide health benefits. It’s best, however, if you tailor the duration and intensity of exercise to your current fitness level, ability, and goals, and be regular! Even if you are very busy, can you find 10 minutes dispersed during your day to add some high-intensity movement intentionally? God made us for movement. Ask Him to help you with this! “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
* Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6763680/.