Can 12 Minutes of Exercise Weekly Make a Difference?

(Image credit: Dreamstime)

When it comes to exercise, there's one excuse I hear more often than any other: "I simply don't have time to exercise today!"

There might be days when this is true, but it can't be true every single day. Be honest with yourself. If you have time to watch a television program or play an online game, you do indeed have time for exercise.

But there is some good news for those of you who really are too busy to exercise on most days. A study published in the journal PLoS ONE found that 12 minutes of exercise weekly is all you really need to stay fit.

Participants in the study were overweight, but otherwise healthy men, who were split into two groups. Both groups exercised vigorously three times a week, but half of the participants exercised for only four minutes each time, while the other half exercised for 16 minutes each time.

Guess who performed better on fitness tests? Are you sitting down? Many of the results were similar.

Both groups increased the amount of oxygen their bodies could use during exercise by 10 to 13 percent, and experienced small decreases in blood pressure and glucose levels.

However, those who participated in the 16-minute sessions saw greater decreases in cholesterol and body fat, which is one of the main goals of exercise for many people.

So, the bottom line here is that 12 minutes of exercise weekly does make a difference. But you'll see better weight loss and cholesterol-lowering benefits if you increase your activity further.

I know what you're thinking, though. There are only so many hours in a day, and there's no way I'm giving up my Angry Birds hour. But what if the first 12 minutes per week didn't have to take any extra time from your day? Could you find an additional 12 minutes or more to spend solely on exercise? I know I can, and I hope you can too.

Here are some ideas for getting 12 minutes of exercise per week without throwing a wrench into your routine:

  1. Take the stairs. If you only have to go up a few floors, choose the stairs instead of the elevator. You can easily rack up 12 minutes of exercise weekly.
  2. Park further and put a spring in your step. We're always rushing, so it's natural to want to snag the closest parking spot, but if you resist the urge, you can fit in a little exercise time. If you're doing this at least five times per week, you don't even have to park clear across the lot. At a brisk pace of about 4 miles per hour, you only need to walk a total of about 422 feet each way. That's doable, right?
  3. Take the road less traveled. You know that hill you avoid every morning when you take Fido for a walk? Make it a point to tackle that hill at least once per week, and you'll likely get in your 12 minutes.

Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!

Deborah Enos
Deborah Enos, CN, also known as "The One-Minute Wellness Coach," is The Health Coach for busy, working people. She pares her good-health messages down to simple and fast bullet points that can impact lives in 60 seconds or less. Deborah serves as a board member of the American Heart Association.  In addition to writing the Healthy Bites column for Live Science, Deborah is a regular on FOX Business News, NBC and ABC, and is a frequent contributor to The Costco Connection, Parade Magazine, Self Magazine, Good Housekeeping and USA Today. Deborah is also The One Minute Wellness Coach for The Doctors TV Show.