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What “Counts” as Exercise? Here’s What Science Has To Say

A 60-minute B3 session: definitely a workout.

But how about a 30-minute workout? Ten minutes? A quick power-walk during your lunch hour? We all want to be diligent about exercising regularly, but what, exactly, “counts” as exercise?

We have good news for you: The latest research is in on how much (and how hard) you really need to be exercising in order to be healthy—and it’s way less than you probably think.

The bottom line is that every minute of activity you get throughout the day matters. “Just think of it like snacking,” says Martin Gibala, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University and co-author of The One-Minute Workout. “Building little exercise snacks—taking the stairs, walking to a coffee shop, doing squats while you’re on the phone, etc.—into your day will greatly benefit your overall health and fitness.”

One of Gibala’s recent studies found that performing a 10-minute workout with three, 20-second high-intensity intervals mixed in consistently (three times per week) for 12 weeks was just as effective in improving participants’ health (insulin sensitivity, oxygen consumption and muscle function) as performing 50-minute moderate-intensity sessions. “There is good evidence that intervals can provide similar boosts to your cardiovascular fitness in less time, so if time is an exercise barrier for you, that’s very encouraging news,” he notes. In other words, those 10-minute B3 Online workouts are doing you a world of good.

More good news: You don’t have to hit the pedal to the metal every time you exercise in order to see results. To stay in optimal cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends that you perform at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days a week, OR at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days/week. You can also do a combination of the two, plus strength train two days/week.

And by no means does all (or any) of that time have to be spent indoors. In fact, new research on native Tsimane people in Bolivia revealed that their lifestyle alone, which entails simply walking about 7.5 miles every day, farming, hunting, and fishing, and eating an all-natural, high-carb, low-fat diet, could be credited with leading them to the lowest levels of coronary artery disease ever recorded.

“Point is, there are lot of different ways to exercise and stay healthy, and the more menu choices you have, the better,” says Gibala. The most important thing is to find activities that you enjoy, because that’s what you’ll stick with long-term. And don’t beat yourself up for not doing an hour-long workout—instead, celebrate every minute you manage to squeeze in.”

Want to work in a 10-minute workout today? We have tons of options for you on B3 Online. Not a member yet? Sign up for our free 15-day trial and get started!