Does exercising in shorter bouts throughout the day really provide the same benefit as exercising in one continuous bout?

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Does exercising in shorter bouts throughout the day really provide the same benefit as exercising in one continuous bout?

Jumping RopeWhen it comes to the reasons people cite for not regularly exercising, one of the most common responses given is lack of time (or in reality, a perceived lack of time). Often individuals assume that in order to reap the many benefits of exercise they must engage in physical activity for extended period of time, and that the activity must be strenuous in nature (remember the old “to pain no gain" mentality?).

The reality is the recommendations published in the Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health as well as in the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association’s physical activity and public health guidelines state that to improve health and reduce risk of chronic disease individuals should aim to engage in a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. This can be performed in 30 minutes bouts of activity five days a week or it may be accumulated throughout the day through intermittent exercise bouts of at least 10 minutes in duration.


A little bit really can go a long way

Research continues to emerge supporting the notion that small bouts of exercise accumulated throughout the day may provide many of the same benefits as one continuous bout of activity, including improvements in aerobic fitness and even weight loss. In fact, shorter bouts of exercise may actually be more beneficial than one continuous bout of exercise in helping to promote long term adherence to an exercise program, especially in overweight and sedentary adults, who may find the shorter duration to be more tolerable, as well as in youth, who tend to find shorter bursts of activity to be more enjoyable.


Ways to make activity a part of your day

Even though we live in a fast paced society finding time for exercise is possible, and below are just a few simple suggestions as to how you can ensure exercise becomes (and remains) a part of your regular routine-  

  • Schedule exercise into your day- Just like you would a meeting or an appointment, pencil in your activity. Set aside time each day for exercise and note that designated time frame down on your calendar as a reminder to get moving!
  • Recruit a workout partner or a fitness professional- The added motivation that a friend, family member of fitness professional can provide as well as knowing that someone is expecting you at a certain place or time can help to enhance accountability for being more active.
  • Try 10-minute mini-workouts- As mentioned above, three 10-minute bouts of physical activity accumulated throughout the day can have all the same benefits as one continuous 30-minute bout. Try taking 10-minutes in the morning, afternoon and evening to do some form of activity, such as 10-minutes of bodyweight exercises (push-ups, crunches, lunges, squats, etc) in the morning, a 10-minute brisk walk during your lunch break at work and 10-minutes of yoga-inspired stretching in the evening.
Jessica MatthewsJessica Matthews Contributor

Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYT500, is a well-known blogger and kinesiology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University. In addition to holding ACE Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach certifications, she is an experienced registered yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance. Jessica is regularly cited as a wellness expert by outlets such as CNN, Shape, Self and The Washington Post.

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