Saturday, October 27, 2012

Little Bits of Exercise... Do You Bother?

I tend to be an all-or-nothing type when it comes to working out.  Some days are just too busy... there doesn't seem to be enough time to do all of the things that need doing and get in a good workout too.   So I don't bother.  Let me rephrase that... in the PAST I haven't bothered.

Let's face it... working out or going for a run takes a lot of time!

You have to put on the appropriate clothing, actually do the activity, cool down and stretch and then shower or at least sponge bath, before putting on street clothes and combing your hair to carry on with the day.  Even without makeup, you are looking at no less than an hour.

I remember years ago trying to go for a short run on my lunch hour at work, doing the sponge bath, dab dab dab thing in the washroom before re-dressing and getting back into my suit, stockings and heels, and knowing that I would never attempt that nonsense again.  I was dishevelled for the remainder of the day and the run was only 20 minutes long... so was it even worth it?

Well, that is the point of this whole post... is 10 or 15 or 20  minutes worth of exercise worth it?   Are little bits of cardio, or isometrics, or strength training or core work beneficial?  Do we need to do a full-blown workout to get anything from it, or can we actually do ourselves some good by moving for only a few minutes if that is all the time we have?

I have come to believe the answer is YES... it IS worthwhile to move, in whatever way we can, for a few minutes at a time... and if we can do that a few times a day, it does all add up.  Now that 20 minute run was likely not worth it, but a 20 minute walk certainly would have been and it actually could have been a 45 minute walk because I would not have needed the change in clothing and cleanup that the run entailed.

For starters, we are burning more calories when we move, than when we are sitting or even standing.  We get our heart rates up a bit more by walking than just standing... all good.  Increased heart rate means increased blood flow which means more oxygen throughout our bodies... good for brain power and for physical endurance, too and we need blood to deliver oxygen for cell growth, healing and regeneration... I was told that by the physiotherapist that examined my hand injury on Thursday.

How can you work in little bits of extra movement into your day?  What activities can you actually work into a 10 minute or 15 minute or 20 minute period, that aren't going to leave you needing a shower or a change of clothing, but will do you some physical and mental good?

At my Weight Watchers meeting on Thursday we talked about this subject... the ladies there really got into the discussion and came up with some pretty outrageous and amusing suggestions... such as doing squats while standing in line to pay for your groceries, and doing walking lunges down the length of the shopping mall... yes, those things are doable , but really , are YOU going to do them?  Not me.  I applaud anyone who does these things, but it is not going to be me. I am too shy.

And of course, there are the ones we all think of like parking further away from your destination so you have to walk a bit more to get there... making several trips to carry your groceries into the house from your car... making more trips up and down the stairs in the house... and they are good.  But do we do them?

Here are some things that I can and would do... and some that I actually have done...

During your work day
  • stand up to talk on the phone or as often as is practical
  • use the stairs instead of the elevator to get to your work area
  • fidget at your desk... move around, shrug your shoulders, stretch your arms, swing your legs
  • get up and go get your own coffee/water/snack
  • use a stability ball at your computer station instead of a chair
  • walk at lunch time - if you can do errands, even better use of your time
At meetings
  • when there is a break go outside and walk for 10 minutes - head out for 5 minutes and then back for 5 minutes - the fresh air is exhiliarating and refreshing and it is good to take a recess from the other people you are meeting/working with. I find this is good for me mentally as much as it is physically. Take care you don't get lost (oh yes, been there, done that!)
  • find a private corner and stretch a bit. You can even do this in a restroom if you need... stretch your arms forward to give your lower back a stretch and stretch your hamstrings and calves if you have been sitting for a while, but gently. Again, get the blood flowing a bit.
  • if you are the meeting leader, get everyone to stand up and stretch their arms overhead and behind their backs for several seconds.
While doing housework
  • when no one else can see you, you can get really creative and have some fun.. dance while you dust the furniture, jive with the vacuum cleaner, and if you can sing too, so much the better
  • do squats and pushup at the kitchen counter while you are waiting for the oven timer to ring
  • practise alternating lunges while you are picking up toys
While watching TV
  • Get out your yoga mat and do some crunches and some pushups.
  • run or walk on the spot
  • alternate squats and lunges
  • practice your jabs and upper cuts
  • dance up a storm
  • skip with or without a rope
  • sit on a stability ball
While at your child's hockey practise or figure skating session
  • run or walk up and down the arena stairs
  • walk around the concourse
  • jump up and down if your team scores
  • walk on the spot.. you may need to do this to keep warm anyway
You get the idea.

And one other thing about exercising for only a few minutes... it allows you to begin doing a new-to-you activity in a less intimidating fashion.  Really, no one starts out running for half an hour... but if you can start running for 2 minutes and alternate that with walking for 1 minute, you can do that a few times and begin to run... and you can gradually increase that until you are running half an hour and beyond.

And just for the sake of accountability here, I am working on doing some of these kinds of things myself... honest

Do you work in little bits of exercise to your day, or do think it's just not worth it?  Are you an all-or-nothing exerciser?

Can you offer some more suggestions?  Would love to have your input.


  1. I'm pretty bad about this, honestly. If I don't have time to do the "full" workout I had planned, I often skip it.

  2. I have been trying to do my crunches and sidebends when watching TV. At our WW meeting this morning they even talked about doing lunges while pumping gas. I am still giggling at the thought of it. I don't think so.

  3. I love all of these ideas! Do I do them? Not enough... I'm like you Elle. I tend to prefer a longer workout, but know that when you're busy, every little bit helps!
    And yes, I'm a sharer too ;)

  4. I work in a male dominated industy. Less than 10% of the people in our building are women and we have three bathrooms. On too of that, the bathrooms have lounge areas. If you can't find me I'm either exercising, reading or napping in the lounge. I rarely get caught as there really isn't any traffic in there. But the ladies are kind of used to it now. And they've stopped asking how I stay so small. They see me taking care of myself.

  5. I have had this same conversation with my friend. Unfortunately, am an all or nothing kind of gal even though I totally agree with what you said above. Anything is better than nothing. I just have a hard time changing my mindset. I frustrate myself sometimes:)

  6. I try to work in little bits because every bit counts I think. I try to do leg lifts while I watch TV or isometrics... and when I'm too tired after a run to do an arm workout, I still do some push ups. I doesn't take a lot of time and really made a difference.

  7. I do believe in little bits of exercise, I didn't always, but now that I am a mom I have changed my tune a little! I will often do a set of lunges or squats at work, makes me feel more energized. I will throw in a set of pushups while waiting for the shower to warm up, that sort of thing.

  8. I think the little bits of exercise are really important. Extra trips up and down the stairs at work do it for me :)

  9. What a great reminder to squeeze in little bits here and there....especially when I am stuck at my desk at work....not a happy place to be stuck.....but I do get up and down a lot!

  10. I get bogged down by the idea of it "not being worth it". I know that's not true, but if I only have a few minutes, I think that I will just do a longer one tomorrow, which doesn't always work out. There is no harm in getting every little bit that you can!

  11. I totally believe in getting 10 minutes of exercise here and there throughout your day, especially if you're not someone who works out regularly. There's lots of studies that show 10 minutes of walking 3 times a day is just as good as walking for 30 minutes in a row.
    At 34 weeks pregnant, I am all over getting 10 minutes here and there - as it's all I can really manage these days.
    Great post.


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