Is 5 Minutes Of Exercise A Day Enough?
Trainers weigh in on mini workout snacks.
Since a typical fitness class lasts between 45 minutes and an hour, it doesn’t seem like five minutes of exercise could possibly be enough. Studies have shown that a 10-minute daily workout is worthwhile and can do wonders for your health — but what if you’re really, truly pressed for time and have to cut that routine in half?
If five minutes of exercise seems pointless, it’s likely because almost all fitness routines look a certain way, says Joyce Shulman, a certified trainer and founder of Jetti Fitness. If you can’t go extra hard and devote a full hour to the gym, then why bother? But the truth is, “all physical activity is good, and generally more is better,” she tells Bustle. “Every minute and every mile matters and there are tremendous benefits to adding incremental movement to your day.”
If you only have five minutes, it’s definitely worth it to go for a walk, do a set of push-ups, or have a mini dance-off in your living room. Shulman refers to these quick, five-minute workouts as “exercise confetti” that can be sprinkled into the day — kind of like a nice surprise for your muscles and cardiovascular system.
Five-minute workouts are a great place to start for beginners, offer plenty of health benefits, and are an easy way to squeeze in more daily movement. That said, only doing five minutes of exercise a day likely isn’t enough in the long term. Here’s what trainers have to say.
The Benefits Of 5-Minute Workouts
If you only have five minutes to exercise, go for it. “There aren’t any downsides to aiming for those five minutes,” says Whitney Berger, a certified yoga instructor, personal trainer, and founder of WhitFit NYC. “Any movement, for any period of time, is great. You should give yourself credit, too, for taking those five minutes out of your busy day for yourself.”
Short, speedy workouts are often called fractionized exercise, Shulman says, and research says it all adds up to significant benefits. It can strengthen your muscles, help you break a quick sweat, and if aren’t able to do longer workouts, the shorter sessions help you build up to longer ones down the road.
“Research also shows that some of the biggest benefits for health and longevity come to those who go from very little activity, or being largely sedentary, to even some moderate movement,” Shulman explains. “Also, true fitness has multiple components, including heart-strengthening cardio, muscle-building resistance training, and flexibility. And five-minute windows allow you to add more of these components to your life,” she says. For example, five minutes of stretching each day and five minutes of bodyweight resistance training absolutely do add up.
Is 5 Minutes Of Exercise A Day Enough?
While five minutes of exercise is worth it, you’ll need to up the ante a bit as time goes on. It’s recommended to aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week for optimal health and wellness, Shulman says, which comes out to about 20 minutes per day. You can break it down into five or 10-minute chunks if that seems more doable, though — like maybe a five-minute workout in the morning followed by a 10-minute sweat after work. Ultimately, though, 10 to 30 minutes of exercise most days is best.
How To Exercise In 5 Minutes
If all you have is five minutes, Berger recommends going for plyometric moves like burpees, mountain climbers, high knees, or jumping jacks so you can break a sweat and improve your cardiovascular fitness in a flash. Burpees, in particular, are a great full-body workout, she says.
To focus on strength, try sets of squats, lunges, tricep dips, push-ups, or planks. “Planks are great because they work the total body — every muscle is being used,” Berger says. “I actually do a few minutes of different plank variations a day when I’m traveling and unable to get to a class or gym. You don’t need any equipment.”
Another option is to do five-minute workout snacks throughout the day — once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and again in the evening. You could also tack them onto longer workouts. “For instance, if you are a runner, use those five minutes for resistance training,” Shulman says. “If you are someone who is sedentary most of the day, use those five minutes for a brisk walk.” You’ve got options.
The Bottom Line
If all you have is five minutes, being active is always a good idea. “Raise that heart rate! Five minutes of skipping rope, jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers or even running in place [is similar to a 30-minute easy walk,” says Berger. “Short bursts of cardio follow the ideology of HIIT, or high intensity interval training: These exercises are so good for cardiovascular health, strength, stress relief — and your overall health.” And there you have it.
Bhammar, DM. (2012). Effects of fractionized and continuous exercise on 24-h ambulatory blood pressure. Med Sci Sports Exerc. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182663117.
Saint-Maurice, PF. (2022). Increased Physical Activity Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.7755.
Yang, YJ. (2019). An Overview of Current Physical Activity Recommendations in Primary Care. Korean J Fam Med. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.19.0038.
Joyce Shulman, certified trainer, founder of Jetti Fitness
Whitney Berger, certified yoga instructor, personal trainer, founder of WhitFit NYC