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How 15-minute doses of physical activity can boost your life

Whenever you feel the urge to eat something because of cravings and boredom, get busy by dancing inside your room, or completing your household chores
/ 12:52 AM October 11, 2011

It is still better to exercise even for 15 minutes a day than to do nothing at all. It is also better to do a consistent 15-minute workout that you can do for the rest of your life, than injure or stress yourself with unrealistic long-duration, high-intensity workouts, only to find yourself quitting exercise in the end.

There have been numerous studies published regarding the physical and mental benefits one can get from consistent short-duration physical activities. These studies are especially important in attracting sedentary or inactive people who usually get overwhelmed with 30 minutes a day of exercise just to get health and fitness benefits.

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Heart health

An interesting three-month study published in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that 15-minute cardiovascular and strength training workouts can produce significant improvements in one’s fitness level and heart health, such as decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol.

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What are some 15-minute strength and cardio exercise programs you can do?

Alternate 30 seconds or a minute of resistance training routine like push-ups, squats, lunges and abdominal crunches with a minute of cardio routine like jumping jacks, step-ups, jogging in place or dancing in place until you complete a total of 15 minutes. This type of workout can increase your heart rate throughout the 15-minute routine.

Do brisk walking for 15 minutes early in the morning or in the afternoon.

Dance for 15 minutes every morning or before taking a shower at night.

Scrub, sweep or map the floor nonstop for 15 minutes every day.

Waist management

An Australian study published in Diabetes Care showed that people who take more breaks from sedentary positions, such as standing up more frequently from a sitting position or taking a single step, can have smaller waist circumference and lower blood glucose and triglyceride levels.

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How to incorporate workout breaks to your day:

Len Kravitz, senior exercise physiologist for IDEA, suggests walking to and from the farthest restroom, or standing or walking around the room while using the telephone.

Give yourself a rule or set an alarm every 20-30 minutes so you can take a short walk or stretch break wherever you are.

Squeeze your butt while sitting, extend and bend your knees, lift and lower your arms and twist your torso side to side every 30-60 minutes.

Self-control

A study on exercise and self-control conducted by researchers at University of Exeter, England, published in Appetite showed that exercise helps reduce a person’s chocolate cravings and improves one’s coping strategy for stress.  This study also suggested that a short dose of exercise can help people who are trying to quit smoking to cut back on caffeine and switch to a diet.

How physical activities improve your self-control:

When craving for something like chocolates or salty junk foods, try to get outside your house first and walk for 10-15 minutes. You might be surprised how physical activities can help diminish your cravings.

Whenever you feel the urge to eat something because of cravings and boredom, get busy by dancing inside your room for 10 minutes, or completing your household chores. This strategy will distract you from thinking too much about food.

Try to do your 15-minute home workout routine and you will feel more empowered to control your urges to eat extra calories, because you might not want to offset the 100 calories burned from a short workout just by eating a 100-calorie piece of chocolate.

Better mood, self-esteem

A 2010 meta-analysis, which collectively observed more than 1,200 participants, published in Environmental Science and Technology showed that “green exercise” or outdoor activities, such as walking, running, hiking, biking, taking your dog or kids outside to move and walk for as little as 5 minutes a day, improved self-esteem and mood, compared to physical activity lasting 10-60 minutes.

There have also been a number of studies proving that sedentary people can benefit from shorter periods of exercise when it comes to mental health improvement.

How to start your own “green” exercise:

Walk your dog outside every day.

Play with your kids in the garden.

Bring your officemates to the nearest park after work to chat and walk/jog at the same time.

Use your bike when going on errands.

Longer life

A study published this year in Lancet Journal and conducted by researchers at the National Health Institutes in Taiwan found that those who exercised 15 minutes a day, or a total of 90 minutes a week, extended life expectancy by three years, compared with those who did not exercise at all. This study tracked 416,000 Taiwanese adults.

How to make a 15-minute workout part of your everyday lifestyle:

Choose the most doable and the most practical activities you can do for life, like walking or doing household chores.

Make your activities fun and enjoyable by involving your wife/husband, your kids and/or your friends.

Memorize by heart a 15-minute basic exercise routine that can already target your whole body, preferably body-weight exercises.

When on a trip or vacation, make a commitment to yourself to move at least 15 minutes a day, even just by strolling or climbing up and down the stairs several times a day.

E-mail the author at mitchfelipe@gmail.com

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TAGS: Exercise, Lifestyle, Physical Activity
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