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Workouts For the Time Crunched (And Paint Covered) [Research finds the "sweet spot" for exercise duration]

Posted Oct 02 2012 10:07am

I’m actually pretty pleased with how this is turning out! I love how the blue-green contrasts with our gold tree outside – now if only I can make it so the seasons never change…

“Minty gel with tartar control” wasn’t exactly the look I was going for – the color on the paint can I randomly picked up off the discard shelf for 5$ said “Bahama Blue” and who doesn’t love the Bahamas?! – but when I get the urge to repaint our front room (every couple of years) it’s like an itch I have to scratch, practicality and paint chips be darned. In the five years we’ve lived here it’s been kindergarten yellow (which with our red bookcases made it look like we were living in the house Ronald McDonald built), stone gray (stones are only pretty when they’re stone and water is running over them), antique white (blah), Colosseum (a bizarre army green) and almond toast (a brown that felt really earthy and warm until one morning last week when I woke up and realized it just looked like acid reflux). And of course, me being me, I can’t just repaint but I have to recover our (meager) furniture, redo wall hangings, sew new window treatments and reorganize all the storage. Oooh and I stole an idea from my friend Jess and bought these awesome sparkly “gem” lights that I’m going to make a permanent light fixture to make our room all Winter Wonderland instead of Winter Woe-land which is how I feel about Minnesota winters.

At least that is what it’s supposed to end up as. Right now I’m just in the middle of a huge mess. And because, again, I’m me, I’m hyperfocused on getting it done. I’m painting every spare moment that I’m not wiping up smudgy minty gel footprints off the floor because they kids wanted to “help.” (My kindergartner helped by painting… all the door knobs. Oy.) Plus, I stepped on a nail and now have a really owie puncture wound. (True story: I stepped on it so hard that when I lifted my foot up the board came with it and I had to pull it out of my foot. And no I didn’t get a tetanus shot – what’s the window on those things? It’s been two days and I don’t have lockjaw yet.)

All of which means that my workouts are, er, suffering. (Also, for all of you who have e-mailed me and wondered if I’d died under a avalanche of Legos because it’s been a week and I still haven’t answered you, well now you know why. Sorry!)

But! As I have learned, lo these few years, my life should not revolve around exercise but rather my fitness routine should fit my life. So I’ve been doing short but intense workouts to get my sweat fix but still work on my insane home improvement projects. (My husband left the house the other morning and all was as usual. By the time he got home all the furniture was in the garage and half of our oak trim was painted white. He loves it when I do this.) From MMA to ballet, for a few years now I’ve been collecting these “mini” workouts that can be done in 15 minutes or less but still give a fab burn.

And because I’m the sharing sort (and also because I still need to, you know, do my job) I made a list of my 15 favorite workouts that can be done in under 15 minutes  forShape. And the best part is that most of them require little to no equipment so you can fit them in wherever!

Here’s my current fave, cribbed from Mark’s Daily Apple:

Paleo diets  are all the rage these days but exercising like our distant  ancestors  also has great benefits. Whether you’re lifting heavy things to build your hut or build your biceps, research supports the perks of lifting as heavy as you can handle for short sets. You’ll increase your strength and your contribution to the gene pool!

Try  this primal workout  from Mark’s Daily Apple: Grab a weighted object (two  dumbbells , sandbag, barbell, kettlebell or recalcitrant toddler) and do not put it down until you have completed 3 full cycles of the workout below. Do 1 set of 6 reps for every exercise, and then repeat the entire circuit two more times.

Overhead presses
6 Squats
Bent-over rows

You can take a break in between each cycle, but you may find that you just want to power through since you can’t put down the weight.

And if you need more quickie motivation, Glamour magazine featured me on their site talking about what I do to keep myself motivated to workout. which, if you know me, don’t take a lot of pushing… but still! Fun!

The research also supports this quickie mentality. A New York Times article reports about one of the largest exercise studies ever done and the results may (or may not) surprise you: There is a sweet spot for exercise and it’s only about 30 minutes!

“Researchers at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and other institutions combed through the health records of 52,656 American adults who’d undergone physicals between 1971 and 2002 as part of the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study at the Cooper Institute in Dallas. The researchers found that about 27 percent of the participants reported regularly running, although in wildly varying amounts and paces.

The scientists then checked death reports. Over the course of the study, 2,984 of the participants died. But the incidence was much lower among the group that ran. Those participants had, on average, a 19 percent lower risk of dying from any cause than non-runners.

Notably, in closely parsing the participants’ self-reported activities, the researchers found that running in moderation provided the most benefits. Those who ran 1 to 20 miles per week at an average pace of about 10 or 11 minutes per mile — in other words, jogging — reduced their risk of dying during the study more effectively than those who didn’t run, those (admittedly few) who ran more than 20 miles a week, and those who typically ran at a pace swifter than seven miles an hour.

“These data certainly support the idea that more running is not needed to produce extra health and mortality benefits,” said Dr. Carl J. Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans and an author of the study. “If anything,” he continued, “it appears that less running is associated with the best protection from mortality risk. More is not better, and actually, more could be worse.”

His analysis echoes the results of another new examination of activity and mortality, in which Danish scientists used 27 years’ worth of data collected for the continuing Copenhagen City Heart Study. They reported that those Danes who spent one to two and a half hours per week jogging at a “slow or average pace” during the study period had longer life spans than their more sedentary peers and than those who ran at a faster pace.

This decidedly modest amount of exercise led to an increase of, on average, 6.2 years in the life span of male joggers and 5.6 years in women.

“We can say with certainty that regular jogging increases longevity,” Dr. Peter Schnorr, a cardiologist and an author of the study, said in presenting the findings at a clinical meeting organized last month by the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation. “The good news is that you don’t actually need to do that much to reap the benefits.”

Sorry for the long quote but I felt it was important to show that it wasn’t just one small study showing these results but several large studies.

Do you have a go-to workout that you do when you only have a short time? Do the study findings surprise you? What’s the craziest  color you’ve ever painted a room?!

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