The 10-Minute Workout, Times Three
Many people initiate an exercise program with good intentions, only to quit soon after they start. One of the biggest reasons for poor follow through is lack of time.
Fortunately, new research has shown that three ten minute bouts of exercise 3x/day may be more effective than a continuous bout of thirty minutes, for health and wellness and specifically for reducing blood pressure.
High blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Almost 70 million Americans have prehypertension, with a tendency for their blood pressure to spike to dangerous levels throughout the day.
Elevated blood pressure has been shown in a number of studies to respond well to exercise. Many studies on exercise and blood pressure have employed moderate exercise sessions lasting for an uninterrupted 30 minutes per day, which is the commonly recommended standard for improving health.
At a Research Center at the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion in Arizona, volunteers were asked to walk briskly at an intensity equaling about 75 percent of each volunteer’s maximum heart rate for 10 minutes three times during the day. The sessions took place at 9:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
On a separate day, the volunteers completed one 30-minute supervised session of brisk walking in midafternoon, while on a final day, they did not exercise at all.
All of them monitored their blood pressure continuously for 24 hours at a time.
Exercise was helpful in controlling blood pressure in both exercise groups, but breaking up the workout into three short sessions was significantly more effective than the single half-hour session.
It also resulted in a lower blood pressure “load,” i.e. the number of incidences during the day when a volunteer’s blood pressure spiked above 140/90.
Science shows that for many purposes, short, cumulative exercise sessions are remarkably beneficial for a number of health conditions.
A study published in PLoS ( Public Library of Science), found that in children and teenagers, repeated bouts of running or other physical activity lasting as little as five minutes at a time, reduced the risks of elevated cholesterol, obesity and elevated blood pressure , as much as longer exercise sessions did.
Other studies have found that exercising sporadically throughout the day aids in weight control and in a few small studies, it also improved aerobic fitness among previously sedentary people as much as a single, longer workout did.
From a compliance perspective, shorter regimens are more likely to be maintained over the long term.
In my experience, adaptations produced by exercise occur based on the demands one places on their body through modifying acute variables e.g. intensity, time, load etc. Depending upon one’s goals, these variables can be manipulated in order lead to the desired adaptions.
The above study demonstrates that it doesn’t take much to produce metabolic adaptations that can have significant effects on one’s health.
An exercise program should have planned changes (periodization) in order to avoid a plateau effect as well as over or under training.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Jul 6. Effects of Fractionized and Continuous Exercise on 24-h Ambulatory Blood Pressure. Bhammar DM, Angadi SS, Gaesser GA. Arizona State University, Healthy Lifestyle Research Center, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Phoenix, Arizona