-- Dr. Len Kravitz, Ph.D., associate professor of exercise science, University of New Mexico
You know the mantra: Exercise vigorously, nonstop, for a minimum of 30 minutes a day in order to derive definite health benefits. Well that was then.
"We've found that short bouts of exercise can add up to the same benefit as if you had done it continuously," says Maureen MacDonald, Ph.D., who conducted numerous studies on the effectiveness of bite-sized bursts of exercise at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
If you're "chronically busy" or just not the gym type but would like to incorporate more exercise in your daily life, some five-minute home workouts may do the trick. Select exercises that involve multiple muscle groups and perform them throughout the day.
Here's a plan for one day in your fit life. Do them all and you've accomplished 30 minutes of exercise. Perform as many sets (eight to 10 reps for each set) as you can in each five-minute span and include a little warmup beforehand:
Early morning: Before your shower, rev up your circulation with some squats followed by wall pushups. Squats work lower body muscles; pushups do the same for the upper body.
Mid morning: Simulate jumping rope with typical jump rope arm movements, combined with pretending to throw punches at a punching bag, using the sides of your fists. If you don't want to jump, just keep lifting your heels. (Works lower body, arms and shoulders.)
Early afternoon: Time for a quick energy lift with a side crunch/leg lift combo. Combine with back leg lifts that strengthen abdominals and buttocks. (Targets obliques — the sides of your abs — and thighs.)
Mid afternoon: Jazz up the late-afternoon low-energy slump with marching biceps and back arm lifts. The marching biceps exercise strengthens legs, hips and front of upper arms; arm lifts are a combination balance and triceps exercise that targets the back of upper arms.
Early evening: Relax with some music and try a few spontaneous dance steps; holding onto a support, mix in leg lifts to the front, side and back. After dinner take a five-minute walk, longer if you wish.
Late evening: Reward yourself with a relaxing back stretch. Lying on your back in bed or on a mat, bring both knees toward chest, wrapping arms under thighs; take several deep breaths. Place a small pillow under your head if upper back is rounded. Congratulations, you have just completed your 30-minute workout. Sleep well!
If you are 50 or older and have not been exercising, check with your physician before beginning any exercise program. Trainer Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SEE THE ACCOMPANYING PHOTOS (ABOVE RIGHT) FOR THIS MONTH'S EXERCISES:
This month we've got some exercises that can be easily done at home, in five-minute bursts throughout the day. Barbi Bozich, 53 (striped shirt), and Kathy Kessler, 63, demonstrate the exercises. Sally Anderson