The Reality of the Micro Workout

As our lives get busier and busier, it becomes increasingly difficult to fit in physical activity. From long hours at work to extended commutes, hours in the day when we’re free to do as we wish seem to shrink as time goes on. Do we really want to sacrifice our leisure time slogging away on the treadmill or lifting weights for an hour at the gym? New research suggests that intense bursts of physical activity are sufficient to keep us healthy. High Intensity Interval Training has been all the rage for a few years now and involves intense bursts of exercise, but these high impact exercises still require at least 10 minutes of your day. What if you could get similar benefits with even shorter periods of physical activity? Enter the micro workout.

What is a micro workout?

Micro workouts, also dubbed High Intensity Incidental Physical Activity, break down intense exercises into 10-minute (or shorter) intervals throughout the day. The key here is that the physical activity is incidental. In other words, you barely notice that it’s happening. It’s part of your day and may include activities like climbing the stairs, gardening, or housework. According to recent research done by the University of Sydney published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, there’s evidence that these tiny blocks of activity improve cardiovascular health.

Benefits of this type of workout

It seems too good to be true, and while the research on HIIPA is still limited, there are indeed benefits associated with short durations of intense physical activity. For instance, studies have shown that those performing HIIT workouts have a higher incidence of weight loss compared to those doing moderate intensity exercise. A study from the University of British Columbia also found that inactive participants enjoyed HIIT workouts a lot more than other types of exercise.

Micro workouts have the advantage of being an approachable starting point for sedentary individuals and a palatable alternative to structured workouts. HIIPA is also a way of incorporating physical activity into a lifestyle instead of including it separately. Physical activity, then, runs the risk of becoming an even more significant part of one’s everyday routine. The limited time commitment and low cost of this type of activity is also an attractive aspect. There’s virtually no learning curve required as well.


There are limits to the micro workout. Incidental physical activity of this kind simply doesn’t provide the same benefits as vigorous physical exercise meeting minimum thresholds. As people get fitter, the amount of physical activity required to see improvement increases.

And while HIIT may be associated with greater chances of weight loss, there’s no research linking HIIPA to the shedding of pounds. People also tend to overestimate their physical activity levels, says research from the University of Southern California, and folks are likely to do the same when attempting to incorporate HIIPA into their lives.

Ways You Can Bring HIIPA Into Your Daily Life

Go upstairs quickly

If you haven’t already started taking the stairs instead of elevators and escalators, then that’s one of the first places you can start. Once you have gotten into the routine of taking the stairs, increase your speed on your way up. A reminder, though: You should be careful on the way down. Even short stair climbing sessions can help elevate your heart rate and improve your cardiovascular health.

Engage in energetic chores

Basic household chores such as cleaning and picking up can be turned into HIIPA exercises. All you need to do is put in a little more energy when doing these chores. Making an upbeat playlist can also help make them both a bit more fun and faster paced.

Walk briskly on errands

Whether you are making a stop by the post office or grocery shopping, moving at a brisk pace is a great way to engage in HIIPA. You may need to start slowly, especially if you struggle with joint issues. As you build up your pace, you may find you enjoy your errands more as it acts as a positive physical release.

Park further back

Most of us have spent time circling parking lots looking for the closest parking spots. Instead of doing this, you can simply park near the back of a lot. You can have a slightly longer walk and a much easier time parking!

Written by: Steph Coelho

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