And how micro-workouts factor into that equation
Before you panic, we’re not talking full body sweat fest at the gym every day kind of exercise, keep your 3-5 days going of whatever you’re already doing to stay fit. This is about micro-workouts, with results backed by science, to fill the days in between or keep you going when your routine goes sideways from work, travel or just straight up laziness. If you have 15 minutes a day to spare for a quick HIIT to get the blood moving, the brain oxygenated and a little sweat on the brow, lucky you. If you’re freaking busy and only have 5 minutes to spare on any given day, good news, we’ve got you covered.
Here are 8 reasons to get up and move just five minutes each day:
1. Lower BMI
A study from the University of Utah shows that all those little micro-workouts can add up to something big. Turns out the calorie burn during these short but intense sessions results in a lower BMI for both men and women. The key seems to be in kicking up the intensity level of what you’re doing rather than focusing solely on the length of time.
2. Reduced Hunger
Now this is exciting. Another study published on obesity revealed that splitting exercise up into short chunks may help with appetite control. One set of participants did one hour of exercise each day while another set did 12 sessions of five-minute workouts. In the end, the group that did the short workouts said they felt an average of 32% fuller throughout the daytime hours. This means that these micro-workouts can actually improve satiety. Told you it was exciting.
3. Improved Memory
Research shows that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better, and exercise every day will help it perform better every day. But, that's not all. As Scientific American points out, it's also about the longer term effects. When our neurons are revved up our cognitive function improves, aerobic exercise can actually reverse hippocampal shrinkage and thus boost memory, particularly in older adults. A benefit for the young is that students who exercise seem to perform better on tests than their less athletic peers.
4. Boosted Confidence
Exercise can improve your appearance which can improve confidence, but it can also help you feel more accomplished and social. Even if you don't see immediate results in your body, the fact that you put out the effort will make you feel better about yourself. Like how you feel when you spend less time on social media. Five minutes spent exercising instead of scrolling through Instagram can have an exponential effect.
5. Less Stress
We already know that when our cardiovascular system is healthy we can better cope with stress in our life, but one study has shown that regular exercise can also change the way our brain functions, to the point where it learns to shut off stress rather than just coping with it. We're hit with stressors every day, fight them off five minutes at a time. This could be a better option than a large glass of wine and Netflix, but the jury’s still out on that one.
6. Better Sleep
Physical activity improves sleep quality and increases sleep duration. Early morning and afternoon exercise may also help reset the sleep wake cycle by raising body temperature slightly, then allowing it to drop and trigger sleepiness a few hours later. Just one night of bad sleep can really set you back, be proactive and plan for some good REM every day. It can be especially helpful if you are able to exercise outdoors and let your body absorb natural sunlight during the daytime hours.
7. More Energy
It may seem counterintuitive that expending energy through exercise would increase feelings of energy and reduce fatigue, but some studies have shown increases in the levels of energy-promoting and mood-enhancing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin in the brains after regular exercise. Who doesn't want to feel that every day?
8. Less Sick Days
Exercise helps bolster the immune system to fight off bugs so keep moving every day and you may be half as likely to get a cold than people who didn't. Then you can go back to calling in sick because you’re levelled with a hangover after your friend's wedding.
If you're now wondering how to do a 5 minute HIIT workout, here are some you can try:
Bear in mind that what raises your heart rate is relative and HIIT workouts are not for everyone, especially if you have heart health concerns. If you're completely sedentary or not terribly fit, you don't need to try something that "may destroy you". Even going for a walk and increasing the pace for one minute intervals can make a huge difference. Always check with your doctor before starting a new fitness program.