We’re all operating in survival mode right now, and stopping your regular workout routine in the middle of a pandemic is certainly understandable. But regular exercise helps with anxiety, depression and sleep quality, and in the world we are living in, these benefits can make all the difference. If your schedule is too chaotic to fit in a dedicated workout, the answer might be a micro-workout, loosely defined as a ten-minute workout incorporating high intensity intervals.
The theory is these brief moments of intense sprint intervals can boost endurance in much the same way as longer workouts performed at lower intensities. There’s a certain amount of evidence supporting this theory, although the jury is still out on how much of a benefit a micro-workout truly offers, as well as what the optimal intervals are.
That said, while increasing endurance is a nice benefit, at this point most of us are simply looking to hang on to whatever shreds of sanity we have left. If ten minutes is all the time you have, a quick workout will always be better than nothing at all and will probably go a long way toward helping your overall mood.
When it comes to filling those ten minutes, there are certainly strategies you can use to optimise results, but even if all you have bandwidth for is a ten-minute walk around the block, that will also help. Don’t overthink it: Whatever works for you—and whatever you can stick with—is what you should do.
With that in mind, if you are seeking micro-workout inspiration, here are a few suggestions for maximizing your exercise time:
Sprints interval training on a stationary bike
This workout, which requires a stationary bike, involves 3×20-second “all-out” cycle sprints interspersed with 2 minutes of more measured cycling, bracketed by a 2-minute warm-up and 3-minute cool-down. If you don’t have a bike but do have a place where you feel safe running, this could be modified into a track workout. Just make sure you’re practicing safe physical distancing.
The Go-To Workout
This workout, adapted from the book, “The One-Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That’s Smarter, Faster, Shorter,” by Martin Gibala, Ph.D., is good for those lacking equipment. Start with 30 seconds of jumping jacks, followed by alternating bodyweight exercises with some type of cardio in repeating 30-second intervals. Examples could include push-ups, pull ups, squats, lunges or burpees alternated with stationary biking, jumping rope or running in place.
Jump rope combo
This workout, adapted from a Bustle article, requires very little equipment. In one-minute intervals, start with jump rope, planks, walking lunges and jumping jacks, followed by one minute of rest. (If you don’t have a jump rope, try running in place or burpees.) Then, repeat.
Although the evidence on the effectiveness of micro-workouts is still up for debate, the evidence in support of regular exercise is crystal clear. Micro-workouts can help you maintain a regular fitness habit and help keep you sane in these very chaotic times. If all you have is ten minutes, you can still make those minutes count.