Do 5- or 10-minute workouts do the trick?
This question may have crossed your mind, especially if you realize that today (once again) you don’t have time to squeeze in a workout. Whether your schedule is out of control or your energy levels are low, you need to know if short workouts are even worth the trouble. It’s time to find out!
What Are the Benefits of Micro Workouts?
Micro workouts (5- to 10-minute sessions) are hot right now—just check out Instagram or TikTok. These quick sweat seshes promise to get you fit in less time—no gym required. But is a quickie really worth it?
The resounding answer is yes! According to research, you can boost your metabolism in as little as 4 minutes. Doing micro workouts throughout the day are just as effective as one long training bout to gain muscle, boost your metabolism and lose weight.
Here are 3 major benefits of short workouts:
#1 Micro Workouts Burn Fat
Short, intense workouts like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) trigger excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC)—the amount of oxygen our body consumes following an exercise session. Notice I said “intense.” You have to go hard to reap the benefits of short workouts.
During hard training sessions like HIIT, intense cardio or plyometrics, your body experiences an oxygen deficit, which may leave you winded and out of breath. Once your workout is completed, a higher level of oxygen is needed to restore your body back to its original state—a point known as recovery mode.
Throughout the recovery period, your body works hard to repair muscle fibers and tissue. But without the proper amount of oxygen and fuel, optimal recovery isn’t possible.
Following intense training sessions, your fat stores are broken down and free fatty acids are released into the bloodstream, which then become oxidized and are used as fuel.
What does this mean? Long after an intense workout is over, you will continue to burn more calories and fat because your body needs to use more oxygen to bring itself back to a resting state. Simply put, low-intensity workouts don’t evoke the same response.
#2 Micro Workouts Build Lean Muscle
In addition to burning fat, short and intense workouts like HIIT also build lean muscle and increase testosterone and growth hormone levels, which promote bone and tissue growth.
The more muscle you have, the easier it is to lose weight, boost your metabolism and increase your energy levels. But regardless of gender, testosterone declines as you age (yes, women produce testosterone, too, just in lower levels), leading to a weakened metabolism and potential weight gain.
The solution? Add intense workouts like HIIT or interval cardio training to your overall workout routine to ensure your hormones are balanced and you continue to build lean muscle, even as you age.
#3 Micro Workouts Improve Your Cardiovascular Health
Your VO2 max—the maximum volume of oxygen you can use at a given time—is a good indicator of your overall fitness.
Here’s an example:
Remember that moment you couldn’t catch your breath during exercise? All of a sudden, your body was having difficulty getting enough oxygen to your working muscles to sustain exercise. You were probably alarmed!
I’m willing to bet you weren’t performing steady-state cardio like jogging or biking. You were most likely doing a high-intensity workout like HIIT and really going all out. But even if you were struggling to catch your breath, stick with it—the benefits of short and intense workouts are huge!
In fact, studies suggest intense workouts like HIIT promotes greater VO2 max improvements compared to steady-state exercises. Research also claims your heart muscle will actually enlarge during HIIT workouts in order for the organ to become bigger and stronger. Not only that, intense workouts significantly improve your cardiovascular endurance, meaning you can go longer and harder.
Why? The short rest periods associated with HIIT teach your body to recover more quickly. And the more you do HIIT workouts, the less rest your cardiovascular system needs. Over time, you’ll build stamina, endurance and improve your body’s ability to utilize oxygen to replenish your working muscles.
The bottom line: There’s no shortcut to success. Micro workouts are a great tool on your fitness journey but shouldn’t be your only go-to sweat sesh.
Use micro workouts on the days where you simply don’t have enough time to fit in a longer training session. Focus on short bouts of vigorous exercise—over 90% of your max heart rate—and train consistently 3-5 times per week.
For inspiration, check out the Gymondo app, where you’ll find 100s of 15- to 20-minute workouts that can easily fit into your schedule. Start a free trial to explore your options.