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Are micro workouts right for you?

What are they, how do you do them, and do they really help you get fit?

Working out is such a big topic of conversation on social media, in wellness circles, in general. A lot of people are deeply passionate about a particular type of exercise, extolling the virtues of yoga, Pilates, running, a particular sport, CrossFit or various gym routines. Other people prefer to vary what they do, enjoying different benefits and outcomes from a variety of practices.

One of the wellness trends that's been making noise in recent years is around micro workouts. So what are they exactly?

What are micro workouts?

As the name suggests, a micro workout is a short, intense burst of exercise designed to be done anywhere, at any time, and in a limited space. They typically last up to 10 minutes are are designed to be performed throughout the day. Adrian Richardson, senior content strategist for Fitbit at Google, told Forbes:

“Micro workouts are on the rise, evident in the rise of quick, one-minute dances and fitness challenges you find on TikTok. Removing the time barrier to exercise is a major factor in the growing popularity of this wellness trend. This bite-size, low-intensity format makes it easier to squeeze movement into more moments throughout the day. It might include a morning dance with your favorite influencer, a quick set of push-ups and squats before lunch, and an evening yoga session to help you wind down and de-stress. These short takes on fitness add up to big results, and are a delightful and fun way to get moving.”

How do you do a micro workout?

There's a number of apps and social media videos that offer ideas for micro workouts - personally I'm inclined to think that Meredith and Christina's Grey's Anatomy '30 second dance party' might have been the original variation on the theme. However, ideas include:

Micro workout examples

Repeat one of the following five times per session with 20 seconds of rest between each round, and repeat three times throughout the day:

  • Squatting for 40 seconds
  • Do burpees for 30 seconds
  • Do lunches for 30 seconds
  • Plank for one minute
  • Commando - 10 reps each side

Do micro workouts work?

There's probably not a straightforward answer to this - it seems to depend on what you want to achieve. There's some indication that overall wellbeing can benefit, but depending on what you do, it might not achieve all the results, especially aesthetic results, that you might be hoping for. However, the Society of Behavioural Medicine said:

"Micro-workouts have proven to have many positive benefits. In one study, a 10-minute workout three times per week increased endurance by nearly 20 percent and participants had increased insulin resistance at the end of the study. A large study linked longer life spans with running as little as 5 minutes a day."

The popular Dr Michael Mosley also looked into the idea of short HIT workouts with a view to improving his insulin sensitivity and my aerobic fitness. He said:

"research from a number of centres has shown that three minutes of HIT a week improves insulin sensitivity by an average of 24%."

Working on the hypothesis that three minutes of HIIT a week for four weeks would make a difference, after the four week period, he said:

"The results were mixed. My insulin sensitivity had improved by a remarkable 24%, which was extremely satisfying, but my aerobic fitness had not improved at all."

Read more about the link between physical and mental wellbeing

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