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Two Fit

Published: Sunday December 30, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday August 15, 2013 MYT 10:37:14 PM

Micro workouts: Mini-exercise sessions

Micro workouts are a great way of getting some short bursts of physical activity throughout the day.

IF you’re one of the doomsday preppers, you may have gorged yourself silly with artery-clogging foods, stayed off exercise and lived as if it was your last day on earth. You waited a day, two, three perhaps, and darn, the apocalypse was a no-show.

The sun is still shining and the birds are chirping, but now you’ve piled on a few kilos and it looks unsightly. Well, it’s too late to shake it off before 11.59pm tomorrow, but hey, you can make one of your 2013 resolutions to work out anywhere, anytime. As long as you can squeeze in a few minutes here and there, you’ll be on your way to a fitter, healthier body.

Micro workouts – doing short bursts of activity throughout the day – have been around for the past few years. Everyone has a minute here and there to spare, especially when they have to wait for something. Standing at an elevator (you should be taking the stairs in the first place), waiting for the LRT, waiting for your food or date to arrive, and even waiting for the next programme on telly can all add up to little moments of exercise.

These mini-exercise sessions can also be more formal, such as a five-minute walk or a three-minute yoga pose.

The goal of a micro workout is to encourage people to move often, rather than to exercise for a long stretch several times a week. Micro workouts help relieve stress and improve your mood.

Although initially frowned upon by personal trainers, sports medicine scientists have done much research to prove that there are benefits, especially for those who do not exercise at all.

A study at the John Hopkins University, United States, concluded that short exercise intervals can be just as effective as longer ones. You may not feel the same endorphin release, or sweat as profusely as a 30-45 minute continuous workout, but something is better than nothing.

However, if you’re looking to shed weight fast, then you have to work out more strenuously. Sorry, there are no short cuts to success although you may see some toning and slimming effects.

Our bodies were designed to move, but with technology taking over most aspects of our lives, we’ve become sedentary animals, and the effects are being seen on our expanding waistlines. And you wonder why obesity is on the rise?

If you don’t have time to work out, it probably means you’re doing too much. Most people have to juggle between a career and a family – sure, it’s no easy task. But, if you can squeeze three 10-minute sessions into your hectic schedule daily, it will be a great start.

Even if you have to dance to Psy’s Gangnam Style, no matter how uncoordinated you are, just get up and do it. Psy’s no dancer and his horsey moves are pretty simple to follow. Bottom line: every small bootyshake helps burn calories.

By doing short bursts of activity five times a week, you’ll get the 150 minutes of workout weekly, which is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine.

If you enjoy a certain activity, stick with it. Exercise doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It doesn’t always mean pumping irons at the gym or engaging in competitive sports. It can be any physical activity, including gardening or housework.

When American fitness and martial arts guru Billy Blanks released the eight-minute Taebo (a portmanteau of taekwondo and boxing) DVD workout earlier this century, it was a revolution. I recall breaking out in sweat and feeling so good that I’d pop in the DVD and do it twice a day. He claimed it would help burn at least 70 calories in that short span of time, although this is disputable.

His celebrity clients included Paula Abdul, actresses Neve Campbell and Brooke Shields, and athletes Wayne Gretzky, Bruce Jenner, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal. With newer fads and versions of kickboxing entering the market, the workout waned, but it left a lasting impression. Now his son, Billy Blanks Jr, has taken over with his dance-based workout DVDs.

You can start with micro workouts as soon as you rise in the morning. Start with some easy wake-me-up crunches while still in bed. Perform two to three sets of 20, then turn over and stretch those muscles. Do some back extensions and you’ll feel alive immediately! You’ll spring out of bed in no time.

You can also do two minutes of wall push-ups, squats, lunges and stretching, totalling eight muscle-burning minutes.

There are many basic micro workout routines you can do throughout your day. The key is to perform a few different types of exercise that last a few minutes each. Whether it’s taking a brisk walk or stroll, there are still benefits. When you have (or need) a little more energy, do some jumping jacks, run on the spot, or race up the stairs.

Here are some more little exercises you can incorporate into your routine:

  • Go over to your colleagues’ desk by walking, instead of calling or using inter-office messaging.
  • If you’re on the cell phone, move around while you talk, or do calf raises or squats.
  • If you work in a remote area, consider cycling to work. This option is not viable in the city due to the horrendous traffic, pollution and safety factors.
  • At work, though you may have been told countless times to park your car far from the stairs or elevator, and walk, I would advise you against it. Not with the rising number of robberies in carparks.
  • Take a lunchtime brisk walk. A rule of thumb, always walk before you eat. You don’t want to exercise on a full stomach as it interferes with digestion.
  • Use the stairs whenever possible.
  • Stretch while waiting for the elevator. I get rude stares for my “indecent” poses, but it doesn’t bother me.
  • When you’re sitting on your “throne”, especially in the morning, do ankle and wrist rotations to limber up your joints.

All of the above doesn’t take too much effort. One micro step at a time does the trick. On that note, here’s wishing all readers a Happy Fit Year ahead!

Tags / Keywords: Health, Lifestyle, Health, micro workouts

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