Exercise: Is 15 Minutes a Day Enough?

“I’m too busy to exercise.” Sound familiar? I hear it all the time. Between work and family responsibilities, a social life, and the million-and-one tasks of daily living, it’s easy to feel as though you don’t have a minute to spare. How could you possibly carve out time for regular exercise?

Public health officials recommend 30 minutes, 5 days a week as an exercise goal for health and fitness. If you’re sedentary, that may sound like a lot — but a recent study found that even 15 minutes a day of exercise may be beneficial.

Taiwanese researchers studied over 400,000 men and women of all ages across an 8-year timespan. When previously inactive subjects exercised at a moderate intensity 15 minutes a day — or 90 minutes a week —risk of death from all causes decreased by 14% and life expectancy jumped by 3 years. For every additional 15 minutes a day of physical activity, risk of all-cause death decreased by 4% for both genders across all age groups.

It’s a Start

Any amount of exercise is better than no exercise at all, so getting 15 minutes a day is a great start; and if you don’t have time for a full 30-minute workout, squeezing in 15 minutes is worthwhile — but it’s not a miracle cure. Building up to at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-to-vigorous cardiovascular exercise — like walking, swimming, or bicycling — offers far more than a slightly longer life span.

Increased energy and endurance, stronger muscles and bones, improved physical function, and better brain health are just a few of the benefits of getting the recommended amount of cardiovascular exercise each week. These fitness payoffs can dramatically increase your level of well-being and quality of life.

Fitting in 15 – or More

Fifteen minutes of exercise isn’t much. Here are a few ideas for making it happen:

  • Replace your coffee break with a walking break.
  • Ride the bus or catch the train. Users of public transit are much more likely to get the recommended amount of weekly physical activity.
  • Ride your bike to work or walk — at least part of the way.
  • Turn off the TV, power down the electronics, head outside, and bust a move.
  • Make an after-dinner walk or active backyard play a fun family habit.
  • Be social and active — meet friends for a hike, dancing, or basketball.

Towards a Long and Vibrant Life

You won’t accidentally stumble upon more time to exercise — you have to create it. Do you spend too much time on things that don’t matter to you? What can you delegate, eliminate, or scale back? Enlist a friend or family member to help you take an objective look at how you spend your days.

The next time you wonder how you could possibly make time for exercise, ask yourself another question — how could you not? There’s a lot of truth in what Abraham Lincoln said:  “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

 

Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports. www.wellcoaches.com/beth.shepard

References

  1. Wen CP; Wai JP; Tsai MK; Yang YC; Cheng TY; Lee MC; Chan HT; Tsao CK; Tsai SP; Wu X, Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study. Lancet.  2011; 378(9798):1244-53
  2. Elsevier (2010, June 29). Public transit systems contribute to weight loss and improved health, study finds. Science Daily. Retrieved February 10, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100628203756.htm
  3. La Chapelle U, Frank L, Transit and Health: Mode of Transport, Employer-Sponsored Public Transit Pass Programs, and Physical Activity. Journal of Public Health Policy (2009) 30, S73–S94.doi:10.1057/jphp.2008.52

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