Do 5-Minute Workouts Really Work?

If you've ever been tight on time and couldn't squeeze in a full workout, yoga session, run, or spin class, it might have been tempting to skip working out altogether. But research shows that any amount of exercise — even five minutes — can have health benefits, from increased cardiovascular fitness to lowered blood pressure. In fact, these short bursts of exercise, dubbed "exercise snacking," might even be better for us than traditional 30-minute workouts in some ways (via Science Daily). And a 2017 study found that a single minute of running was associated with better bone health in women. 

With five minutes, you can easily do a series of jumping jacks, push-ups, brisk walking or jogging, or a short yoga flow, especially before mealtime in order to better control blood sugar. "Dosing these small amounts of high intensity exercise before meals (particularly breakfast and dinner) may be a more time-efficient way to get exercise into people's day, rather than devoting a large chunk of the day," exercise science and medicine researcher Monique Francois said after conducting an experiment on nine people over a series of weeks (via Science Daily).

Why bother with short workouts?

Short workout bursts might be easier to actually accomplish, especially since only five percent of adults are exercising the 30 minutes that are recommended for lower blood pressure and better health outcomes (via Science Daily). You may also find that once you commit to doing five minutes of an exercise, you actually end up making time to do more throughout the day.

"Brief bursts of intense exercise are remarkably effective," Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University said after completing a study comparing endurance exercise to short bursts of activity. "Climbing a few flights of stairs on your lunch hour can provide a quick and effective workout. The health benefits are significant." You can also try to add exercises during your regular routines, like doing squats while waiting for the coffee to brew in the morning, or a quick plank during a commercial break on TV. 

It's amazing how little you need to do to create better health outcomes for yourself: Even five minutes of breathing exercises can have positive impacts on health, one study done in 2019 at the University of Colorado found (via Science Daily). Bottom line: Sure, a longer workout is going to be better, especially if weight loss is the goal, but if you only have five minutes to work out, it's still worth doing!