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Add a Mini-Workout Every Day as Part of 12 Healthy Habits

By Sheryl Dluginski | January 24, 2014 7:36am
 The January instalment of our 12 Healthy Habits plan for 2014.
12 Healthy Habits — January 2014
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UPPER EAST SIDE — A few weeks into the new year and all the talk of healthy resolutions fades.

I must confess that as someone who gets paid to help other people make healthy changes in their lives, I have nevertheless failed at my simple, manageable plan to get healthier in 2014.

This month's goal was to add one short bout of exercise — less than five minutes each day — to my own routine. Here I document how and why to do this, and how to overcome some of the challenges.

WHY ADD SHORT BURSTS OF EXERCISE?: In our "New Year, New You" 12 Healthy Habits column, we demonstrated how a growing body of research shows that small amounts of high-intensity exercise are just as effective at improving health and fitness as longer workouts of moderate intensity.

Whether you are sedentary and overweight, active and young or have a health challenge such as Type II diabetes, you can improve your health and fitness with just several short sprints of full-on physical effort each day. The bottom line: for best results work hard, not long.

CHALLENGES AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM: It seems simple enough. A few vigorous sun salutations here. A set of Burpees or squats there. Run up the stairs instead of riding the elevator. Yet so far I've achieved my goal exactly five times this month.  

For those other days, I was sick, I was running late or I just forgot. Chances are, your obstacles to success are similar to mine. That's the problem with new habits — if you have to think about it and remind yourself to do it, then it's not a habit yet.

Maybe my plan for getting past these hurdles will work for you too: I've installed reminders. Post-it notes on the bathroom mirror, coffee machine, computer and door implore:  "Quick!  Exercise!" And a note now also lives on my calendar next to a regular appointment I have with a fifth floor client: "Stairs!"

Try to integrate the first of our 12 healthy habits — a mini-workout that uses a combination of aerobics and calisthenics:

Four Minute Workout

Minute one: Run in place with high knees, jump rope or do jumping jacks.

Minute two: Do Burpees — squats followed by push-ups — until the minute is over.

Minute three: same as Minute one.

Minute four: same as Minute two.

For even better results, stretch this program into a 25-minute workout by repeating it four times, and interspersing with three-minute bouts of movement at 70 percent maximum effort. Try stationary biking, rowing, elliptical or jogging, for example.

Twenty Minute Workout

Alternate one minute of all-out effort with one minute of light effort, 10 times:

One minute of Burpees/Stretch each quad for 30 seconds

One minute of Squats/Stretch each hamstring for 30 seconds

One minute of Push-ups/Stretch each shoulder for 30 seconds

One minute of Crunches/Stretch each hip for 30 seconds

One minute of Lunges/Stretch your chest for 30 seconds, stretch your back for 30 seconds.

Repeat the whole pattern again, beginning from the Burpees.

REMEMBER: We'd love your contribution — follow us on Instagram (@dnainfonyc) or Twitter (@dnainfo), use the hashtag #2014healthyhabits.

What healthy habits are you trying to adopt this year? Post a photo of you doing the month's healthy habit.

Get on Instagram, or Twitter, mention @dnainfo, tag it #2014healthyhabits, and share.

We'll see you next month for the second of our 12 Healthy Habits.