Just 3 Minutes of Exercise Can Boost Your Health—Here Are 7 Mini Moves to Try

A bite-sized amount of activity every half hour can do wonders for your well-being, a recent study finds. Here are some quick exercise ideas to get you started.

This small but telling study involved 16 middle-aged men and women living in Stockholm with typical desk jobs and a history of obesity. (Their particular sedentary lifestyles and metabolic states put them at risk for diabetes.)

For one week, the study participants wore monitors to give the scientists baseline numbers. Then half of the group downloaded a smartphone app that instructed them to be active for three minutes every 30 minutes. For three weeks, this half of the subjects marched in place, squatted, and performed other simple exercises (that wouldn’t be too distracting to their coworkers). The control group was not prompted to exercise every 30 minutes.

Ultimately, the data revealed that interrupting long periods of sitting and moving bi-hourly for approximately three minutes reduced the impact of sitting for long periods of time and improved glycemic control, compared to baseline levels. After three weeks of frequent activity breaks from sitting, participants showed lower fasting glucose levels and less glucose variability.

The researchers concluded, however, that three minutes should be considered a minimum—if you can move more (say, do this bi-hourly movement in addition to getting in a more formal exercise session each day), that’s even better. 

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Fitness trainer and CEO of Suprema Fitness, Jennifer Cohen, says she’s not surprised by these findings. “Shorter workouts can add up,” she says. “Do the math—if you exercise for six minutes of every hour during a standard eight-hour workday, you’ve done a 48-minute workout total.” 

Cohen believes fitting “mini workouts” into your day is a good solution for anyone: from regular exercisers who have trouble getting in a sweat session on busy days, to people just starting to incorporate a movement practice into their everyday routines.