‘Micro workouts’ are new exercise trend sweeping the fitness world, allowing you to get a sweat on in the days where you either can’t make it to the gym, or you just want to use whatever free time you have more efficiently. But what exactly are they, what benefits do they have and what are some examples?
Current exercise guidelines advise that Australian adults aged 18 to 64 should be engaging in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, and 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise each week.
But let’s be honest, not all of us can find – or make – the time to consistently go to the gym to hit this target on a week-to-week basis.
Fitness coach Dan Go has identified a solution, suggesting that we should incorporate ‘micro workouts’ into our daily routines on days that we cannot go to the gym.
What is a micro workout?
Micro workouts are very short, low- to high-intensity exercises which are designed to maximise your time by working out whenever you have any spare time throughout the day.
According to Dan Go, “Micro workouts work because some days you don’t have enough time or energy to get in the gym.”
He also says to treat the workouts like “exercise snacks” – a fairly charming way to describe this type of activity.
A micro workout can be as simple as 20 seconds of squat jumps or sit ups, or a 60-second sprint down the road and back.
“[Think of them as] somewhere in between that short walk to the water cooler in pre-pandemic times and high-intensity interval training,” said Simon Fraser University Professor, Scott Lear.
Do micro workouts work?
Micro workouts may not provide the same levels of intense calorie burning or muscle building that a regular hour-long workout at the gym would, but they have been found to be beneficial to one’s health.
One study, in the European Journal of Applied Psychology, made inactive adults complete a 20-second bike “sprint snack”, where they had to pedal as fast as they could three times a day. After six weeks, it was found that their fitness had improved by 9%.
Similarly, another study in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that healthy women were able to improve their cardio by performing 20 seconds of vigorous stair-climbing three times a day for three weeks.
According to Martin J. Gibala, who was involved in both studies, “The precise reasons why exercise snacks work has yet to be determined, but they may improve the heart’s pumping capacity and ability to transport oxygen throughout the body.”
What are some examples of micro workouts?
Dan Go mentions a whole range of micro workouts which can help to improve our fitness.
A lot of these exercises are established movements, but can be performed at regular points throughout the day.
One exercise Dan mentions is a soleus desk raise, otherwise known as a soleus pushup. This incredibly simple movement has been taking the world by storm in recent months and couldn’t be simpler to perform. All you need to do is perform calve raises until failure, but instead of performing them on a gym machine or a step, you perform them when sitting down.
Professor at Stanford University Andrew Huberman says soleus pushups, “Offer[s] benefits with very low investment and zero cost,” such as improving blood sugar regulation and your metabolism.
‘Coffee planks’ are another exercise which can be slotted easily into a daily routine. The idea here is that you perform a plank while you wait for your morning cuppa Joe to brew, instead of the usual mundane task of scrolling through your social media feed and deciding which one of your friends you hate today.
Dan Go also suggests ‘commercial cardio’, where it is possible to perform a set of jumping jacks or sprints on the spot during TV advert breaks, until the show you’er watching comes back on.
Although these micro workouts may help to slowly increase muscle or improve your cardiovascular health over time, they are by no means a shortcut to success. They are a good addition to your fitness routines, but should not be your only form of exercise.
But, in the words of Dan Go, “Doing something is always better than doing nothing.”
So, if you can’t go to the gym today for whatever reason, an ‘exercise snack’ might be the way to keep your fitness ticking over.