Is 15 Minutes Of Exercise Enough?

With the mountain of things we tackle on a daily basis, we often make little or no time for self-care practices like exercise. Work, school, family obligations, grocery shopping, and cooking take up so many hours of the day that the idea of squeezing in a workout can feel like too much of a stretch. However, science tells us that even a little exercise is better than none at all. In fact, some research indicates that exercising for mere minutes could have a myriad of health benefits.

According to the 2nd edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, experts recommend from 150 minutes to 5 hours a week of moderately intense exercise, and additional hours of physical activity to boost health benefits. That's a lot of time dedicated to exercise for us busy bees. Fear not. Reaching those numbers of hours might be easier than you think, by using smaller pockets of time throughout the day. Besides that, you may be surprised by how few minutes of exercise actually are enough to make a considerable positive impact on your health.

15 minutes of daily exercise can increase longevity

A 2011 study published in The Lancet found that exercising for just 15 minutes a day reduces the chances for premature death and can increase one's longevity. In an examination of over 400,000 individuals in Taiwan involving a 12-year medical screening program and a roughly 8-year follow up period, those who engaged in 15 minutes of exercise daily had a prolonged life expectancy of three years compared to the inactive group, as well as a 14% reduced rate of "all-cause mortality." Talk about a pretty big return on investment!

In a 15-minute timeframe, then, what's the best activity for the greatest health benefits? Celebrity trainer Megan Roup tells The Thirty, "If I only had 15 minutes, I would focus on strength training!" No hand-held weights or barbells required. Roup says that "functional exercises" like squats and lunges strengthen the core and glutes and help build a strong and lean body. 

These exercises are a great use of 15 minutes

With 15 minutes on a yoga mat — doing either heart-thumping power yoga or an easy, restorative practice — you can shift your energy and improve how you feel. If you want to use equipment, fitness instructor Maeve McEwen tells The Thirty that gliders are great for core strengthening exercises. Start in a plank position with two gliders under your feet and engage your lower abdominal muscles to bring your knees up under your hips. Then, push your legs straight back into plank, and repeat. 

In a very short period of time, "you can efficiently work with bodyweight exercises to raise your heart rate and strength training to build lean muscle," says Megan Roup (via The Thirty). "You will not only get the physical benefits from 15 minutes of exercise, but the mental benefits as well." Squeezing in a quick 15-minute workout before your kick off your day, or between meals, or before bedtime doesn't sound so bad after all.