The SparkPeople Blog

When Less Exercise is More

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
12/18/2009 2:00 PM   :  155 comments   :  34,757 Views

You have a busy week. Some last minute shopping to do (complete with many circles around the parking lot to simply find an empty spot), cookies to bake for your neighborhood cookie exchange, gifts to wrap, travel plans to finalize, a volunteer session at the local food bank, and a holiday party for work. You're feeling frazzled, but you want do it all for the spirit of the season. At some point, something has to give. When you're this busy, what's the first thing that falls off your to-do list? Yourself. And for many of us, that means our healthy diet and exercise plans fall by the wayside for days or even weeks at a time, making it harder to climb back onto the treadmill than if you would have just stayed on its belt to being with. Eventually, you need a reason (or resolution) to get yourself back on track and luckily, the New Year is just around the corner, so you decide to just wait until then. Sound familiar?

But what if you could have it all—or at least MOST of it? The truth is, you can. If you can learn to apply one simple rule to your workouts, you can say "yes" to all the holiday festivities and still keep your muscles in tip-top shape, helping prevent that notorious holiday weight gain and the climb back onto the wagon that happens in January. How?

Forget the all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to exercise. Too often, we can't fit our usual routine into our extra busy days, so we choose to do nothing instead. Now how does that make any sense? It's like the quote from one of our favorite members, ~INDYGIRL about overeating: "If you got a traffic ticket would you break every traffic law the rest of the day? Then why toss the whole day over a slice of pizza?" The same goes for your exercise plan. If you can't fit in your full session, why does it make sense to do nothing instead? Wouldn't you want to be 50 or 100 calories instead of zero? Or lose half a pound instead of none?

We know that short workouts still count. 10-minute bouts of fitness are the foundation of the SparkPeople program, and research has shown that they still help people improve their fitness levels, too.

Recently, I was having a particularly busy week at work. I had to go to teach a Pilates class that evening and also run a quick errand near the gym before I headed home. After Pilates, I simply did not have 45 minutes to spare for my full cardio workout. I could have driven the half-mile to the bookstore, but instead, I chose to squeeze in a shorter workout and multitask. I grabbed my iPod, slipped my credit card into its holder, and jogged from the gym to the store and back, and was able to fit in 10 minutes of cardio before I headed home. (No, you don't get that many strange looks while carrying a book while you run.)

Ten minutes may seem insignificant when you're used to doing more, but it really does add up. Not only does it keep you consistent (many of us know just how motivating a streak can be), but it also helps you maintain your fitness level and continue to burn calories and work toward your goal. If your all-or-nothing exercise mentality led you to NOT exercise at all during the month of December, you'd burn 0 calories and lose a lot of momentum. But if you chose to do what you can, even if it wasn't a full workout, you'd burn thousands of calories, which could prevent weight gain and maybe even help you lose a pound or two over the course of the month.

Next time life gets in the way, don't get caught up in the all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to fitness—or food. Every small step you can take toward your goals is still going to get you closer than standing still.

Do you have trouble with the all-or-nothing exercise mentality or have you learned to implement this stay-on-track technique?


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Comments

  • FORMYHEALTH82
    155
    Sometimes I do have that forget-the-rest-of-the-day feelings. I try to atleast keep busy. What I end up doing is chasing one or both of my cat saround the house, so we burn acouple cal.. - 4/1/2014   9:13:25 PM
  • MOONGLOWSNANA
    154
    I'm making progress! I don't exercise daily regularly, yet, but I am working on making the time to do at least 10 minutes sometime during the day. My schedule is flexible to a fault, meaning that I am usually home with no deadline to meet for anything unless I have an appt or a meeting of some sort to attend. Consequently my routine is a daily list of happenings not really planned. I'm working on that too, and beginning to develop a plan. I have a set of health circumstances that have caused me to me unable to exercise regularly for the past year more or less. Getting back into exercise has been difficult. SP has helped me realize that I need to do something rather than nothing if I expect anything else to change. So change is my one constant these days. I am making changes toward better health and wellness. I my be plodding along like a tortoise, but I continue plodding along. I am making progress! - 10/3/2013   12:39:38 PM
  • 153
    I used to have the all-or-nothing attitude, but SP has taught me that any movement is better than none. Now when I really pressed for time I work out for 10 minutes here and there and always manage to get in at least an hour a day even on hectic days! - 5/31/2013   12:51:17 PM
  • 152
    I think anything is better than nothing. I do normally spend at least an hour at either the gym or yoga (or both) but some days I'll just go for a short walk, do a little calisthenics or just shorten my time at the gym. - 3/2/2013   10:04:27 PM
  • 151
    What great advise. I have decided that I will just do what I can - just got back from a 40 minute walk - did not realize I had been out that long. But, the temp is about 50, overcast and a slight breeze - just right for a fun walk along the RiverWalk.
    barb - 12/3/2012   3:29:51 PM
  • 150
    Awesome Advise - 11/15/2012   1:12:25 PM
  • 149
    AMEN!!! I am SOOO into 10-15min cardio "spurts" on busy days. LOVE THEM!!! They truly are the difference between doing "something" as opposed to doing "nothing". - 10/24/2012   12:35:36 PM
  • 148
    AMEN!!! I am SOOO into 10-15min cardio "spurts" on busy days. LOVE THEM!!! They truly are the difference between doing "something" as opposed to doing "nothing". - 10/24/2012   12:35:31 PM
  • 147
    My trainer told me just yesterday that a lot of people think its not a good workout unless you can spend hours in a gym. our training session lasted 35 minutes and it felt great! - 10/4/2012   8:24:22 AM
  • ANNEMCCORD
    146
    This is definitely something I need to keep in mind on a daily basis! - 10/3/2012   1:42:33 PM
  • 145
    I love this blog because it is so relatable to my life. I could easily incorporate a lot more of this type of exercise into my day if I only stepped it up a notch. I usually take a half-mile walk to go to the grocery store; all I really need to do is step up the pace and I would be pounds lighter or at least FITter sooner. - 11/26/2011   12:56:33 PM
  • 144
    Excellent article. Really makes sense and comapring sabotaging your diet to getting a parking ticket really makes you think! Brilliant, even more reason to keep reading DailySpark! - 9/12/2011   4:36:48 PM
  • 143
    Thanks for the reminder. My biggest problem in ALL areas of my life is the all or nothing syndrome, or my OCD.

    Learning to do better, but still a long way to go. Need to know that I am not alone, that helps a lot as well - 7/16/2011   3:35:47 PM
  • JAZZYMO
    142
    good for you!!!! - 7/6/2011   6:01:56 PM
  • 141
    I sure wish I would have seen this blog last year before the Christmas holiday. Because I am an all or nothing exerciser/dieter --- I gained the traditional 7 to 10 pounds from October to January.
    I didn't exercise or diet which equals weight gain. Not exactly rocket science. NOW I am paying for it by trying to take it all off AGAIN! I am what is known as a back slider. But no more!! Will exercise my mind and body even if it is only for short spurts to keep the status quo. - 2/12/2011   11:32:05 PM
  • 140
    Thank you for the reminder... I can be an all or nothing exerciser and I need to remember just get in 10 minutes. - 2/4/2011   9:43:27 AM
  • JANEDOE82
    139
    So true - thanks for the reminder. I'm the person who eats more than I should and decides what the heck, might as well have dessert since I already ruined it. This helped remind me it all matters. - 12/29/2010   1:42:48 PM
  • 138
    I already knew this, but really needed this timely reminder. Thank you! - 12/10/2010   11:33:04 PM
  • PROPMAN1
    137
    Did well in the beginning with the 10 minute thing but fell off the path recently so....starting all over again. Somehow the holiday day seems to give me a feeling that it's supposed to be a 'free' day...have to get over this!! - 12/6/2010   10:23:11 AM
  • 136
    I squeezed in 10 minutes last night so today I squeezed in my Skinn(ier) jeans! :) This article really helped me; I was telling myself that I don't have time to walk three miles this evening (as I have a thousand things to do) so I guess I won't walk at all but I found this article!!! I think I can squeeze in one mile any way and make it a fast one so I will burn more calories in less time! I don't have to do all or nothing! Thank you for the inspiration! - 12/3/2010   12:16:02 PM
  • 135
    I agree. Many days I work in 10 mintues 3 times a day - 3/10/2010   8:11:14 AM
  • GERPAT
    134
    This is what I work on.. - 1/10/2010   11:44:59 AM
  • SYRIANA02
    133
    Well, i found this article excellent because i was one of those people with the mentality of all or nothing, specially when it came to food, i would say something like oh i messed up, it doesn't matter i will fix it tomorrow. I am glad that i read thi article, I am very motivated.. Thanks this article really changed my way of thinking about food and excercise... - 1/8/2010   3:32:37 PM
  • 132
    I'm so glad that I found and read this article when I did. i have been feeling so guilty when I miss a whole workout for whatever reason but knowing that i can get in a short one and not feel so guilty is great. When school is back in session after Christmas i plan to walk the halls during K5 naptime. Maybe I can do this after all! - 1/7/2010   3:44:42 PM
  • 131
    That was actually very inspiring. Every little bit does help. I have found that just walking instead of driving to the next stop keeps me motivated. Thanks.... - 1/4/2010   7:34:06 PM
  • 130
    After reading "The Spark", I have come to recognize that every little bit helps and it will begin to allow us to do greater things. Small steps, slow and steady wins the race!

    Thanks for sharing. - 1/4/2010   3:14:17 PM
  • 129
    I do try to get in as much as possible, hoping that it will help. I park at the far end of the parking garage and walk two blocks into work. The last few weeks I have attempted walking the 5 flights up to my floor at work, and will be glad when I don't have to stop and rest at the 3rd or 4th floor! I am hoping since I can't get my evening workout in, due to overtime and it getting dark earlier, these little things will help at least to maintain what I have lost so far. - 1/3/2010   10:47:07 AM
  • 128
    I'm right on board with that, all or nothing. Have to get into the thought process that 3 - 10 minute work outs are better than none. - 1/1/2010   11:02:32 AM
  • 127
    This is great advice. I recently got an elliptical machine, and I try to exercise 20 to 35 minutes in the morning and evening. If I do not get a chance to do one or the other, I feel good knowing I got one of them in. - 1/1/2010   3:36:45 AM
  • 126
    I had to re-think the all or nothing mentality because of being so busy. So now I try to get in some form of exercise in small spurts. Door pushups in my office, walk the hallways in the office, take the dog for a 10 min. walk, run in place during commercials on TV. The list goes on, but sometimes it's the only way I can get exercise in with my schedule. - 12/29/2009   9:32:54 AM
  • 125
    I have a very difficult time with any sort of exercise. I have excuse after excuse. And all or nothing is so right on. I need help with this. - 12/25/2009   10:39:01 PM
  • 124
    crud.....I think I have just gotten a "traffic ticket" from Spark....

    guilty of the all or nothing combined with a nasty stripe of needing it to be my "little secret" instead of public knowledge down the middle has gotten a firm hold on me!

    Now what?
    Is there "rehab" available for failing to be the Spark-junkie I so long to be?

    Guess it is time to redevelop my secret and go for the small "dance" moves instead of provding self-justifications for failure to perform the full-fledge flamingo dance......never liked that fancy dance anyhows!
    - 12/25/2009   3:59:58 AM
  • 123
    That is exactly what I needed to hear! thank you!!! - 12/24/2009   11:57:56 AM
  • 122
    As I read this I'm debating wether I want to go outside in the freezing cold and walk. Then I realise...HEY I could walk the stairs in my own toasty warm house.

    And I too am a "all or nothing" person. I guess I see no sense in excercising for ten minutes, but as mentioned, ten is better than zero.

    I'm off now to walk my stairs. :-D - 12/23/2009   9:19:13 PM
  • 121
    This is all about me! I am so all or nothing, however it is something I am trying really hard to change. Inside my head I know that 10 minutes is better than nothing. I need to stop feeling disapointed in myself for not always being able to give it 100%.

    I never thought to enjoy working out as much as I do now. I miss loosing myself in it. Only a few more days left to be all "merry and bright" and then it is time to get back to me. - 12/23/2009   12:58:45 PM
  • 120
    Yes, I am definitely all-or-nothing. My freeweight routine can take up to an hour and I feel like a bum if I don't do it all. Maybe I should slip in the core work before lunch, and my upper body between washing dishes and baking cookies? Part of my skipping workouts has been no pool access while on break from university... but once I get my fancy new insoles on Christmas morning I will start jogging again.
    - 12/23/2009   9:06:17 AM
  • SHEPHERDESS2
    119
    This is so good for me to remember. I AM an all-or-nothing person and it's good to focus on the small steps ACCOMPLISHED not failed. - 12/22/2009   10:24:14 PM
  • 118
    I make sure to walk at least 1 mile per day even if that means walking around the block at 1 in the morning before bed. The calories burned add up, and the miles add up. - 12/22/2009   1:21:28 PM
  • 117
    Good advice...I just need to TAKE it! - 12/22/2009   12:14:46 PM
  • 116
    Great Advice - Guaranteed that any walk, even just around the block is better than no walk at all, and it helps to lift the spirit, settle the mind, and keep the momentum for the next time - and even helps to keep the arthritis at bay. - 12/22/2009   10:01:25 AM
  • 115
    I never thought of it that way, and I know this will help me workout more often. Thanks! - 12/22/2009   9:13:08 AM
  • SPARKEE
    114
    Thanks for the tips! - 12/21/2009   11:18:15 PM
  • 113
    What a great entry! - 12/21/2009   7:17:43 PM
  • 112
    WOW I HAVEN'T BEEN COUNTING ALL MY EXERCISES DURING THE DAY BUT TODAY GAVE PUTTING THE SMALL TIMES UP...I LIKE TO STOP DURING THE DAY AND EXERCISE AND THEN GO ON TO DOING FOR THE DAY BUT USUALLY IN THE AM I DO 90 MINUTES THAT MY RUNNING TO GET IN MY 10000 STEPS FOR SPARKS...BUT THEN DO SEVERAL OTHERS DURING THE DAY....THANKS FOR REMINDER TO ADD THEM UP - 12/21/2009   6:03:58 PM
  • 111
    This posted at the perfect time to reinforce something I already know but that I haven't been doing as well as I should on lately. Thank you! - 12/21/2009   4:36:22 PM
  • SRCHNG4SMTHNG
    110
    I'll admit that in the past I've been an "all or nothing" person when it comes to my work outs but I've been trying to change that. Even if it's just as simple as some crunching during a commercial break or using the upstairs bathroom at home when I'm downstairs. Every little bit helps - 12/21/2009   3:49:05 PM
  • 109
    AMEN to this!

    I've had a "do 10 minutes cardio each day" rule for months and I did more cardio in that time than I did when I was aiming at 30 min/day because it's easier to get started when you're only looking at a short period. (Most of the time I ended up being on the treadmill longer than 10 minutes anyway.)

    On the other hand I have a friend who's gloriously good at telling me why my workout isn't any good: it's only effective to do cardio in daylight (she read it somewhere) and I usually work out at night, it's not effective to work out when sick and I have a slight cold, it'd be more effective to do this or that... but as far as I know, she doesn't do any cardio for cardio's sake. (To be fair: she bikes to work and walks to her grocery store.)

    My thinking is that the exercise that's too short, wrong time of the day, wrong phase of the moon or whatever is ALWAYS better than the exercise you don't do. - 12/21/2009   3:25:55 PM
  • MOD_KITTY
    108
    Usually I like my 30-45 minute workouts, but breaking it up keeps your metabolism up as well. Plus telling yourself 'it's only 10 minutes of jumping rope' makes it sound so easy! - 12/21/2009   2:48:51 PM
  • 107
    Do I have trouble with the all-or-nothing exercise mentality? Boy, do I ever! But, I think I'm in the right place mentally to hear this message. It's really resonating with me! Thanks for writing this article at the perfect time. - 12/21/2009   1:12:33 PM
  • AJCOELHO
    106
    A great idea. Thanks. - 12/21/2009   11:32:51 AM

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