This post is designed to give some hope to those of you who have ever said "I don't have time to exercise" before.
According to the research we are about to share with you, an abundance of time is not a necessity when it comes to improving your health. It is very common to see, particularly as we grow older and enter new stages of our life (career, house, having kids etc), that our priorities tend to shift away from exercising and keeping healthy.
We don't need to tell you how important exercise is. You know all of this. We've said it before (check out almost every blog we've ever written!). Creating habits and making it a priority is the tricky part and this is not a how-to guide to changing habits and priorities. Rather, we are going to provide you with information on just how little exercise you actually need to make significant changes to your health and fitness.
In other words, what is our minimal effective dose? It might be enough to change your life.
(We obviously don't recommend always chasing the minimal effective dose and doing as little as possible. However, this could be a good starting point for those of you who are time-poor and have 'fallen off the wagon' so to speak and want to start somewhere again).
So just how much time do we need?
A study from Hazell et al (2010), showed that 4-6 x 10 second max effort stationary bike sprints (with a 2 minute recovery) performed 3 times a week, for just 2 weeks, improved VO2max and cardiovascular health markers. The results showed an increase in both anaerobic and aerobic performance compared to the control group.
So, that was three minutes total high intensity work time a week for two weeks. If you take into account recovery time, this was between 24-36 minutes per week that can make significant changes. There are 10,080 minutes in a week.
Furthermore, a study from Adams (2013) showed that very brief high intensity exercise improves blood glucose levels 1 to 3 days post-exercise in both diabetics and non-diabetics. "Low volume sprint interval training with as little as 7.5 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week may be a time-efficient exercise strategy to help control blood glucose in diabetic patients and improve insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic adults."
"I don't have a bike at home" you might be saying.
Head to your local gym and spend 15 minutes there. A study by Fisher et al, 2014 showed that a 15 minute, 5 exercise strength session done at 6RM intensity significantly increased strength in middle aged subjects when done 1-2 times per week over 3 months. Even brief, infrequent resistance exercise can result in improved strength.
"I can't get to a gym" I hear you cry.
Go and find some stairs. In 2017, a study from Allison et al (2017) showed that "sedentary women who completed three, 20-second bouts of climbing stairs, performed in one session with several minutes of rest between the climbing, increased their fitness about 12 per cent after six weeks."
"I live in Antarctica and there are no stairs anywhere"
Then get on the floor and do some push ups. A study by Yang et al (2019) showed that men who were able to complete more than 40 push-ups were associated with a significant reduction in incident cardiovascular disease event risk compared with those completing fewer than 10 push-ups.
With all this research it's clear that both sprint interval or brief resistance training are time-efficient ways to improve health and fitness markers for those who are time-poor. The idea of 'micro-dosing' exercise might be a great starting point if you're reading this and know you need to hop back on the wagon!
We've all got the same 10,080 minutes a week. See if you can spare 10-15 minutes a week and make your health a priority.
Making these small time investments can add up and help build longer, sustainable habits, leading to a healthier you!