Exercising little and often

· mumblings ·

I have always been reluctant to exercise for the sake of exercising. I’m always happy to walk outside to get somewhere, or just enjoy nature, and cycling to commute is fine too. But putting on special clothes and doing a ‘workout’ has always made me sigh deeply and want to do something — anything — else. However, I do understand that it’s good for me, and that it will make me feel better in the long run. I get enough cardio exercise from walking, but weight-bearing strength training (using weights or body-weight exercises) is particularly beneficial as you get older to slow muscle wasting and bone density loss.

During the first Covid lockdown, I started a habit of doing regular strength workouts from the Sweat app. I found that I enjoyed strength exercises more than other types, and enjoyed the process of getting gradually stronger. I got quite disciplined about it, all the time we were trapped inside, and for some months afterwards. Eventually I started to drift in my discipline, skipped sessions, and then got really sore or injured the next time I worked out. It wasn’t working any more and I needed to reset things.

I decided to try something different: instead of 25-40 minute workouts, I would try 10 minute workouts. On the principle that doing something is better than doing nothing, I figured that if I could do a ten-minute workout almost every day, that would do me more good than managing a longer workout only once or twice a week. Ten minutes goes by quickly, even while working out. You don’t get time to get as sweaty, so you can do the workout in normal clothes if they are un-restrictive. And even on a busy day, you can find 10 minutes.

The Sweat app didn’t have programmes of 10 minute workouts, so I switched to Apple Fitness+, and filter to select 10 minute strength workouts, and then cycle between upper body, lower body, full body and core workouts. I’ve been doing that for a few weeks now, and so far it is going well. My muscles feel as if they have had a workout, but I rarely get sore and stiff afterwards. It is easier to summon the motivation, even after returning from work feeling tired. I’m going to try to keep it up for a few months to get into a habit, and then try some 10 minute workouts back to back to go up to 20 minutes on one day, or switch to heavier weights.

I might have unwittingly stumbled on the ‘hot new workout thing’. I was amused to read an article in The Guardian, a couple of weeks after I changed to these workouts, suggesting that there was evidence that 10 minute workouts done regularly could be nearly as effective as much longer workouts, especially if done in the evening (which is when I have been doing them). It also claimed that women in particular might get the most benefit from outdoor walking if done between 8 and 11am (which is also when I usually go for a walk if I have the luxury of choosing a time). So it seems as if my inherent laziness when it comes to exercising has resulted in a super-efficient and effective workout regime!

I liked a lot about the Sweat workouts, particularly the clear video loops demonstrating correct form, and the neutral and clear voice prompts. However, I like the variety of trainers and functional strength workouts in Apple Fitness+ too. I do wish you could mute or reduce the volume of the music selectively though. I am probably in the minority, but I prefer working out without music, particularly if I can’t choose the songs. I guess I could mute the audio entirely and turn on the closed captions, as the workouts have good accessibility features. I might try that today and see how it goes. Ten minutes at a time is the way to go…