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Fitness & Exercise

How Much Exercise Do You Really Need?

Even a little exercise may bring you big health benefits.
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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

You say you don't have time to exercise? You're hardly alone. For many people, lack of time is the single biggest obstacle to fitness. But, experts say, you may be overestimating how much exercise you really need to get at one time. Instead of investing an hour at the gym, what if you could get fitter with 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there through your day?

There's building evidence that short but frequent bouts of exercise can yield plenty of health benefits. Consider the following fitness findings:

  • A study published by the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2006 showed that short walks after dinner were more effective than long exercise sessions in reducing the amount of fat and triglyceride levels in the bloodstream after a hearty meal.
  • Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health showed that short bouts of exercise helped lower blood pressure as well as shave inches off the hips and waistline.
  • In a study published in Preventive Medicine in 2006, researchers found that multiple workout sessions as short as 6 minutes apiece could help sedentary adults reach fitness goals similar to those achieved by working out for 30 minutes at a time.
  • In a finding published in the journal Psychopharmacology, doctors found that short bursts of exercise could help reduce the craving for cigarettes and help people quit smoking.

"There is no question that short amounts of exercise can help you get fit, help you stay fit, and help you maintain your health," says personal fitness coach Susie Shina, author of Sixty Second Circuits. "You can stay fit in increments as short as 4 and 5 minutes at a time."

The best part about that is that everyone can find 5 minutes a few times a day, says Shina, owner of a mobile personal training center called Fitness 180.

"Some of these exercises can fit into a 5-minute time period at work, at your desk, waiting on line in the grocery store, even driving in your car," says Shina. "It's not an overwhelming task, and the benefits can be enormous."

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