Brief Exercise: How to Use the Time You Have to Get Fit


brief exercise

For you, is the prospect of exercising an “all or none” thing?


If you don’t have time to do a 30-minute workout, do you do nothing at all? Every little bit of movement counts when it comes to your health – and you don’t have to do a long workout to get healthier.


Recent research shows you can get the benefits of exercise by doing only ten minutes of moderate activity like taking a brisk walk. No matter how busy you are, you can find time to take a 10-minute walk, can’t you?


Even brief exercise counts.


Here’s a surprise. Just getting up out of your chair has benefits for your health. A recent study showed that people who sit for long periods of time without getting up to move around have a greater risk for heart disease, type 2-diabetes, and a higher overall mortality. Pretty scary stuff.


In fact, sitting too long is an independent risk factor for health problems and premature death whether you do a formal workout or not.


This means even gung-ho people who exercise an hour a day aren’t spared the effects of too much sitting if they plop down in a chair for the rest of the day after a workout.


Brief Exercise and Incidental Exercise Count


Of course, it would be nice if you could find the time to do a 30-minute workout every day, but if you’re not ready to make that commitment, you can still lower your risk of heart disease and other health problems with shorter periods of exercise.


Doing SOMETHING is better than doing nothing.


Keep it simple. Commit to doing only 10 minutes a day of exercise even if it’s simply a brisk walk.


Then visit a sporting goods store and pick up a pair of resistance bands. Use them every other day to do 10 minutes of upper and lower body resistance exercises.


If you need instruction, check out some of the many YouTube videos that will guide you through a workout.


Once you’re in the habit of doing this and realize exercise isn’t so bad after all, increase the amount of time you spend walking and resistance training by 5 minutes each week until you’re doing 30 minutes most days.


If you have to, walk for 10 minutes during your lunch hour at work. Remember, it’s only 10 minutes. It’s a good physical AND mental break.


Ways to Motivate Yourself to Do It


  • Keep a fitness journal and write down what you did, how long you did it and how you felt afterward.
  • Wear a pedometer when you walk and try to increase the number of steps you take during each walk.
  • Do brief exercise first thing in the morning before you have time to think about it.
  • Keep a pair of exercise shoes in your car and hand weights in your desk to take advantage of downtime you can use to walk or work your muscles.
  • Think about where you’ll be10 years from now if you don’t stay physically active. Muscle mass, bone mass and aerobic capacity decline with age. All of these things will make it harder to do the things you want to do later.
  • Appreciate the fact that you have the ability to move around – that you have two legs and are capable of exercising, even if it’s only for a short period of time. Don’t worry – you’ll boost your endurance the longer you do it and will feel less tired and winded when you spend time with your family, walk along a beach or do things around the house. There’s magic in staying active.

Spend Less Time Sitting


Just as importantly, spend less time sitting during the day. Here are some suggestions:


  • Set an alarm on your computer or phone to go off every 20 minutes as a reminder to get up and move around.
  • Take a walk at lunch and take the stairs back up to your office.
  • When you’re watching television or working at your computer at home, walk around and stretch during the commercials.
  • Elevate your computer on a stack of books so you can work in a standing position.
  • Whatever you do, don’t let your body go into “hibernation mode.”


How Dr. A Puts This into Practice


Dr. A once had a chair in his office, but he moved it so he has to stand and write in charts. If you’ve seen him as a patient, you’ll notice he usually doesn’t sit.


Can you do something similar at your place of employment?


Even though we both work out daily, we still look for ways to do more incidental exercise. We choose weekend activities that involve a lot of walking. Even when we go to a restaurant we take a brief walk while we’re waiting on our order.


It’s all about being conscious of opportunities to exercise. Once you get into the habit, it’ll become second nature.


The Bottom Line?


We’d like to challenge you to move around more – to be conscious of when you’re sitting too much. Then put aside 10 minutes a day to take a brisk walk or work your muscles.


Let us know how you’re doing by posting on the Healthy Lifestyle Docs Facebook fan page or by commenting on the blog.


Don’t worry you’re not doing it alone. We’ll be right with you trying to stay healthy ourselves.




N Engl J Med. 2002 Sep 5;347(10):716-25.
Medical News Today. “Apart From Lack of Exercise, Prolonged Periods Of Sitting Are Harmful”

Kristie Leong M.D.

Dr. Kristie Leong and Dr. Apollo Leong are physicians helping you to lead a healthy lifestyle by sharing nutrition and fitness tips and keeping you abreast of the latest health news.

2 thoughts to “Brief Exercise: How to Use the Time You Have to Get Fit”

  1. HATE! HAte! Hate! Exercise – A friend of mine built me a standup desk, and am in my 4th week of standing at work. Hope this will help me. I am averaging about 6 hours standing per day instead of sitting for 8 hours.

    1. Diana, that’s an excellent idea. You burn 30 to 40 more calories an hour standing as opposed to sitting. That adds up to about 240 extra calories. Not bad! Your body won’t go into hibernation mode either. You’ll feel more awake and alert. Let us know how it works out for you. 🙂

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