Micro-exercise and the shortest possible (useful) workout


As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)


This week’s Jockology column in the Globe and Mail takes a look at “micro-exercise”: what is the smallest bout of exercise that actually offers health benefits?

Exercise generally obeys the normal rules of mathematics. You can replace one 40-minute workout with two 20-minute bouts, or even four 10-minute bouts, and get roughly the same health benefits. But beyond that, the rules break down: Exercise in bouts lasting less than 10 minutes simply doesn’t count.

At least, that’s what exercise physiologists and public-health authorities have been telling us for years.

But influential groups such as the American College of Sports Medicine are now reconsidering the value of ultra-short bouts of activity, and a new Canadian study suggests that the gradual accumulation of “incidental physical activity” – sweeping the floor, taking the stairs – in bouts as short as one minute can also contribute to your cardiovascular fitness level… [READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE]

The column focuses on the findings of a recent study by Ashlee McGuire and Bob Ross at Queen’s University. For more details on that study, check out Ashlee’s guest post describing the study’s results over at Obesity Panacea. Also, the print version of the study was accompanies by Trish McAlaster’s graphic, which hasn’t yet been posted online [UPDATE: now it’s posted here]. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really fit in this blog’s format, but nonetheless:

I’m reasonably confident that this is the first mention of the caloric expenditures involved in butchering small animals to make it into the Globe!

7 Replies to “Micro-exercise and the shortest possible (useful) workout”

  1. “The surgeon general recomends that you chase them up the stairs before butcthering.”

  2. Yes, chickens that continue to run around after their heads are cut off will soon be in greater demand, because of the additional exercise they provide. 🙂

  3. Bummer! It now reads as “sweeping floor” in the G&M article.

    Now I see the effort for digging the hole is 5 METs but how much work is it to get the body in there.

  4. It kinda makes sense. The 3 mets are hardly going to come from the whack, if you you use a meat axe as in the graph.

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