I’m not sure who decided that an exercise class ought to be an hour long. Why not 40 minutes, or 70 minutes? I think human beings squeeze appointments into a calendar to accommodate the calendar rather than the human being!
The body needs regular movement and exercise throughout the day, and a single 60-minute session a few times a week isn’t the best way to go about getting it. An accumulation of exertion throughout the day makes the body happier than a single bout of heavy sweaty breathing.
Even dedicated athletes see a huge benefit from dividing their workout into two shorter sessions, rather than a single long session. In part, this has to do with the hormone release that accompanies exercise: it’s better to get two doses — or more — of muscle building and bone protecting hormones, than just one.
The other piece of the health puzzle here is movement throughout the day will increase blood and lymph flow. The way that blood flows back to your heart from your toes is with muscle contractions. Walking, fidgeting, and stretching, for example, cause the muscles of the legs and feet to contract. This sends blood uphill, to be re-loaded with oxygen in the lungs.
Lymph fluid is your immune system’s garbage chute, carrying toxins and waste from all over your body to the organs responsible for clearing and disposing these substances, such as the spleen and tonsils. The lymph system has no pump of its own, so the only way lymph fluid can circulate is with your muscle contractions. By sitting still for long periods of time, blood and lymph are less efficient at doing their job.
If you love a good boot camp class or Zumba session, don’t give those up — the benefits to mind and body are numerous. Just don’t use the excuse of having done a sweaty 60 minutes to then sit around the rest of the day!
Research shows that three 10-minute bouts of exercise can offer lots of benefits:
- Increases metabolism
- Keeps the body from becoming stiff (more of an issue is you’re over 40)
- Moves blood and lymph through the body, increasing blood flow and immune function
- Decreases high blood pressure
- Waist circumference decreases (waist circumference is a good indicator of other metabolic health issues)
- May improve cholesterol
If you go the direction of shorter, more frequent bouts of exercise, it’s important you make those minutes count! Climb those stairs quickly, or maybe take two at a time. Jog to the mailbox — it’s only 10 minutes, after all. And if you haven’t been active on a playground since you were a child, give it a try. It’s just as fun as it was when we were kids!
As always, let me know what you think, and what has worked for you.