The 10-Minute Workout Could Change Your Life

The 10-Minute Workout Could Change Your Life

Think 10 minutes isn’t enough exercise? Think you don’t have 10 minutes? Think again.

By: Leah Maxwell

If you’re like me, the hardest thing about working out isn’t the actual exercising but setting aside the chunk of time to exercise when your to-do list tells you there are a million other things you could or should be accomplishing. All those years of absorbing expert advice about the ideal duration and frequency of an “effective” exercise routine did more to discourage than encourage me; I became a person who said if she couldn’t commit to 30 minutes of cardio for three days every week, what’s the use in trying? And since I hardly ever had that kind of “free time” (because obviously exercising is a luxury), it became pretty easy to talk myself out of doing any exercise at all.

Unfortunately, not working out doesn’t … uh … work out for me in the long run. I have less energy, less patience, fewer pants that fit, and more negative feelings about French fries, the last of which borders on tragedy. But what’s a girl to do when she’s short on time and full of excuses? (Say, I wonder how many calories I burn making excuses…)

Enter my 10-minute workout plan, a little trick that’s become the key to making exercise a regular part of my life rather than a phase I slip into and out of a dozen times a year. The 10-minute routine won’t drastically reshape your body or transform you into a fine-tuned marathoner, but it will help you incorporate healthy movement into your life, making it as second-nature as brushing your teeth and, if all goes well, inspire you to set even greater fitness goals.

Here are my seven tips for making it happen:

1. Believe that something is better than nothing. If you can truly only exercise for 10 minutes a day, remind yourself that 10 minutes is better than zero minutes. It really is. Yes, the experts want you to do more, but that doesn’t mean there are no benefits in doing a bit less. Even 10 minutes of activity can boost your mood and get your muscles warm and stretchy. Even 10 minutes means being able to pat yourself on the back because you exercised that day. Even 10 minutes can inspire you to make healthier food choices. Even 10 minutes can ease you into doing 10 (or 20 or 50 minutes) more. Something is absolutely better than nothing.

2. Be realistic. If you are only able to work out for 10 minutes a day most of the time, take that into consideration when setting your fitness goals. These micro-workouts aren’t going to do for you what 40 minutes on the treadmill would, so remember to keep your expectations in line with the amount of effort you’re able to commit to. Don’t let unrealistic goals dampen your motivation and wreck your plan.

3. Adjust your definition of success. It’s natural to gauge the success of our workouts on things like pounds, inches, and pants sizes because they’re easy to track and measure (and because they’re often the motivation behind exercising in the first place). To avoid getting discouraged by lack of progress on these fronts, redefine what success means. Assess your success based on effort rather than result. For me, success is taking those 10 minutes for myself every day, which is a goal that’s trackable, measurable, and instantly gratifying.


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4. Make it a priority. Add exercising to your to-do list so you can treat it like a task and not a luxury to be indulged in when you get some free time (which might never happen). Make working out a “need to do” instead of a “want to do” or “should do.” Bonus: Crossing something off a to-do list adds an extra layer of satisfaction to accomplishing any task.

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5. Make it easy. Pick activities you can do easily whenever and wherever. Maybe that means taking a 10-minute speed walk on your lunch break. Maybe it’s running stairs at home while defrosting ground turkey in the microwave. Maybe it’s popping in a workout video while someone else cleans up the dinner dishes. Fewer complications (special gear, equipment, clothing, etc.) = fewer excuses.

6. Make it consistent. Aim to exercise every day instead of giving yourself a vague or flexible schedule, which often means you end up bargaining with yourself (like “I’ll skip today, but I’ll work out an extra time next week”) or bargaining exercise away completely. If your goal is to move for 10 minutes every single day, that means every day is a clean slate, and every day is a new chance to make a good choice without the added pressure of what you did yesterday or what you think you’ll do tomorrow. That kind of freedom keeps me focused on making a positive choice in the moment.

7. Make it fun. We’ve all heard it before: finding an exercise you love means you’ll be more willing to do it. This is just as true for a 10-minute workout. There are some experts who will say that if you’re only going to exercise for a short time, it better be grueling. But guess what? Doing an easier workout you love for 10 minutes is still better than not doing a harder workout you hate for 30 minutes. Exercise doesn’t have to be awful, and it shouldn’t be awful if that awfulness will prevent you from doing it.

These seven bits of advice might seem like small, obvious tips or they might drastically change the way you look at exercise forever. In either case, though, they’re worth a try, and today’s the perfect day to start.

Do you work out every day? If not, does this plan make it seem like a reasonable goal?

Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

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