No time to hit the gym? Try a micro workout

Sangita Patel, a television host, shares exercise tips and routines through her popular ‘Fitness Tuesday’ videos. Her videos are beginner-friendly, quick, and often feature a single weight and a yoga mat. Patel’s goal is to motivate her followers to stand up and try the workouts, even if they can’t complete them.

Canadian adults spend an average of 9.6 hours per day being sedentary, which can lead to various health risks such as elevated all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, cancer risk, metabolic disease risk, and musculoskeletal diseases. Current guidelines suggest accumulating at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week, but recent research suggests that breaking this down into shorter, manageable chunks, known as micro workouts or “exercise snacks,” can still provide significant health benefits.

A study by McMaster University found that vigorous stair climbing for three bouts per day, separated by recovery periods, improved cardiorespiratory fitness in sedentary adults. Another study published in the journal Nature in 2022 observed a reduction in all-cause and cancer mortality risk, as well as cardiovascular disease mortality risk, in participants who added three bouts of one or two minutes of vigorous movement into their daily life.

Matthew Stork, a research scientist at lululemon, notes that short bouts of exercise can shift movement habits and make it easier for people to incorporate exercise into their daily routines. To start incorporating micro workouts into your day, keep a list of quick workouts on your phone and set a goal for how many times you’ll try to get in some movement each day.

Michelle Dukowski, a health coach and co-founder of RedLeaf Fitness, recommends doing compound movements that use multiple muscle groups and keeping rests short and infrequent. For beginners, bodyweight squats and pushups are good starting points. If you’re comfortable adding weights, do so, as the greater the stimulus, the more change it will cause in your body.

Alyssa Ages, a journalist and author, is a strongman competitor, endurance athlete, former personal trainer, and group fitness instructor. She offers two beginner-friendly micro workouts: a Tabata-style bodyweight workout consisting of squats and pushups, and a seven-minute dumbbell workout that includes lunges, bent-over rows, overhead presses, burpees, and sit-ups.

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