What Happens to Your Body When You Exercise for Just 10 Minutes a Day

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My motivation to work out generally waxes and wanes (super common), but ever since the pandemic I've found the waning periods lasting longer than they typically do because if I know I'm not gonna be able to make a full 30 minutes of HIIT happen for example, I feel like it's not going to be worth doing anything at all. But—and I can't believe I'm saying this—I'm wrong. Every little bit of movement counts. Seriously—getting just 10 minutes of exercise a day has profound benefits. (In fact, a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that you only need 10 minutes of exercise a week to boost happiness. A week!)

Experts In This Article

"Movement is always good—whether it’s 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour-plus; we were made to move, roam, gather, hunt (but obviously times have changed)," says Mike Donavanik, founder of on-demand fitness platform, Sweat Factor. Best of all, adding more movement into your day "doesn't need to be burdensome," Amanda Paluch, PhD, a kinesiologist and assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health & Health Sciences, previously told Well+Good on our podcast. Even 10 minutes can help you with habit formation and keeping momentum.

In the same episode, Brendon Stubbs, PhD, a physiotherapist and senior lecturer at King’s College, cited a small 2018 Japanese study that found that just 10 minutes of gentle cycling improved memory function. It’s compelling enough to make the case for training our brain to think differently about bit-sized exercise snacks. So next time you find your mind talking you out of a quick sweat session, do as Dr. Stubbs suggests, and instead just think, “wow, real life structural changes happening just 10 minutes.” It may be all the motivation you need to start moving.

Listen to the episode here: 

But if you need more incentive, you should know that the benefits of adding 10 minutes of movement to your day start right away. "You will immediately feel more energized, more mobile, more productive, and I’m sure you’ll be in a better mood after," says Donavanik. "10-minutes isn’t quite enough time to have a full-on 'runner’s high'…but it’s enough to make you feel better overall." As you continue to add 10 minutes of movement to your day, it becomes habit. "I think a lot of this is about forming life-long habits," says Donavanik. "Movement is good and it benefits your overall wellness and longevity—there’s no denying that. The more you move the better off you’ll be physically and mentally. If you’re sedentary, you’ll notice how quickly your body responds to moving just 10 minutes daily."

The long-term benefits—six months to a year or more—"pretty much go hand-in-hand with the above," says Donavanik. "Even though you may not notice it, you’ll have improved your heart health, mental health, strength (depending on the type of activities you decide to do), and just overall well-being."

"If you’re someone who thinks 10-minutes isn’t enough— then I’d say 'what do you have to lose?' It’s 10-minutes of your time. I bet after that 10-minutes you’ll feel better than before you started," says Donavanik.

With that in mind, here are 5 workouts that only take 10 minutes

1. 10-minute oblique core workout

This Pilates-style mat workout puts your obliques front and center, strengthening your core with movements like kneeling side planks, toe taps, and leg extensions.

2. Full-body HIIT workout

Looking for a quickie workout that’ll spike your heart rate? Look no further. This one involves two rounds of six movements, done for 10 reps each.

3. 10-minute cardio core workout

Make the most of your time with this workout that combines aerobic exercise and resistance training, allowing you to get in your cardio and your core workout in just 10 minutes.

4. 10 minute lower-body strength workout

This workout requires no equipment, but still hits your leg-day essentials to help you build lower-body strength.

5. 10-minute, no-jumping cardio sculpt workout

Low-impact, high-intensity training (aka HILIT) will spike your heart rate without any equipment or jumping making it a good burn, that’ll be easier on your joints. .

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