If you’ve been diagnosed with a heart condition or have risk factors for heart disease, your doctor may have told you about the importance of physical activity. You may be worried about fitting exercise into your life and completing long workouts—especially if you’re not used to living an active lifestyle.
The good news is that many experts agree that lengthy workouts aren’t necessary to achieve health benefits and fitness gains. According to the Mayo Clinic, when it comes to aerobic exercise, sessions that are longer and less frequent have no advantage over shorter, more frequent sessions. That means dividing a 30 minute session of daily exercise into three 10-minute sessions can be equally beneficial.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a goal of 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity. The CDC also recommends that workout sessions be at least 10 minutes long for maximum benefit. Fifteen short sessions of 10 minutes each spread out through the week can help you reach your weekly total just as well as five sessions of 30 minutes each can. In other words, you can make strides toward your health and fitness goals even if you only have 10 minutes to spare.
Many people believe that they’re doing enough by focusing on a single type of exercise. However, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) emphasizes the importance of combining four types of exercise—endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance—for total fitness. Below are some expert-recommended ways to sneak in 10 minutes of heart-healthy exercise.
Exercises that build “staying power” and improve the health of the heart and circulatory system are considered endurance activities. Walking, swimming, bike riding, and jogging are all endurance exercises. You can also get endurance exercise by using equipment at the gym such as a treadmill, StairMaster, rowing machine, or elliptical trainer. Try 10 minutes of these endurance exercises:
- Go for quick walks: when you first wake up in the morning, after lunch, and after dinner.
- Visit the gym and walk on a treadmill or use a StairMaster, setting the timer for 10 minutes.
- Take a short bike ride with your family or to do an errand.
Strength training builds muscle tissue while reducing age-related muscle loss. To strengthen your muscles, you need to lift or push weight. The resistance against this weight causes your muscular strength to increase. You can do these NIH-approved exercises in 10 minutes each. The first is for your upper body and the second is for your lower body.
Front Arm Raise
This shoulder-strengthening exercise should be done with light, hand-held weights. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold weights straight down at your sides, with palms facing backward. Keep your arms straight as you breathe out, raising both arms in front of you until they reach shoulder height. Hold this position for one second, then breathe in as you slowly lower your arms. Rest for a few seconds before repeating.
To strengthen your calves and ankles, stand behind a chair with your feet shoulder- width apart. Hold the back of the chair for balance and breathe in slowly. Then breathe out slowly and as you do, raise yourself up onto your tiptoes. Hold the position for one second, then breathe in and slowly lower your heels to the floor. Rest for a few seconds before repeating.
Repetitions: repeat both of these sequences 15 times with one minute of rest in between. Then repeat 15 more times. Each workout should take about 10 minutes.
When you think of exercise, you may not think of stretching. But stretching is an important component of fitness that helps to keep the body limber. This gives you more freedom of movement for daily activities.
For a 10-minute flexibility workout, try doing the following pair of stretching exercises from the Mayo Clinic a total of 10 times, alternating on each side of the body. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds on the right side of your body. Relax, breathe, and then repeat on the left side.
Stand at arm’s length in front of a wall and place your right foot behind your left foot. Slowly bend your left leg forward, keeping your right knee straight and your right heel flat on the floor. Keep your back straight and hips forward. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs, and repeat the set 10 times.
Bring your right arm across your body and hold it with your left arm, either above or below the elbow. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch arms and repeat the set 10 times.
As you get older, balance exercises become particularly important, as they help to reduce your chance for a fall. Here are two exercises that the NIH recommends practicing to improve balance. Practiced together, the exercises should take approximately 10 minutes.
Standing on One Foot
Get a sturdy chair and stand behind it on one foot. Hold the position for 10 seconds, trying not to wobble. Rest briefly, then repeat 15 times with the same leg. Rest for one minute, then repeat 15 times with the other leg. Rest for one minute, and repeat 15 more times with each leg.
Position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of your other foot. Your heel and toes should touch (or nearly touch). Take one step forward, putting your heel just in front of the toes of your other foot. Repeat for 20 steps. Rest for 30 seconds, then turn around and repeat for another 20 steps in the other direction. Continue this sequence until you reach 10 minutes total for the pair of balance exercises. To help keep yourself steady, focus on a spot ahead of you as you step forward. You can also do this exercise near a wall to steady yourself as needed.
The NIH recommends warming up your muscles with light stretching before you engage in physical activity. Avoid holding your breath during strengthening exercises or you’ll cause a change in your blood pressure. Breathe out as you lift up and breathe in as you relax. Finally, remember to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. With a green light from your doctor and 10 minutes to spare, you can go a long way toward a healthier and more active lifestyle.