I have written this especially for people who despite their best efforts can only find 10 minutes in their schedule to spend on their fitness. I usually dismiss these questions as I believe we always find time for things that are important to us. But when a friend asked me this over lunch I knew he was sincerely looking for a solution.
Sometimes in life despite our health being important to us, it is not our top priority. Other things like career, relationships and our passions take over our time.
If you find yourself in a situation like this, don’t completely neglect your health. Take out those 10 minutes and we will discuss below what you can and cannot do in this time. Meanwhile I hope you are able to have more control of your time and get to regular workouts soon. Read more about ‘How much Exercise do you really need?’
The first thing that comes to mind for those short on time, is an HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) routine. The routine can be completed in 4 -10 minutes but to sustain an intense HIIT session, you need to have good cardio fundamentals to begin with.
It is important to warm-up and cool down after. You can find many versions of this on the net. Sharing an example of a good routine that you can do at home, courtesy PopSugar(dot)com is as shown in the image. Read more about benefits of HIIT here.
These workouts are intense and will leave you gasping for air at the end of 10 minutes. If this does not appeal to you and you need alternatives, continue reading. 🙂
Gym? Walking? Sprinting?
Going to the gym is out of the question and so is walking, jogging or sprinting. By the time you change into your running gear, tie your shoelaces and reach the grounds, you would have only 2-3 minutes left.
Work on your Mental Well Being
Our physical fitness is guided by our mental health and vice versa. A stressed person experiences aches and pains in his body in the form of headaches, back pains and even toothaches. When we are emotional we become more susceptible to inflammation and vice versa (Ref1). Similarly, a relaxing massage also helps rejuvenate our senses.
And so for someone short on time, another option for them to keep their health is to follow this routine of Yoga and Meditation:
Start with Suryanamaskars – this is a sequence of postures that will relax your joints while working your major muscle groups – from your hip flexors, shoulders, chest, back and even your core. If you are not familiar with this, than this beautiful video from Divya Rolla will take you through the basics.
Depending on your flexibility you might struggle to finish the postures as perfectly as you would see them in the video. But this is nothing to worry about as your stretches will deepen with time and at no point should you strain yourself. You might find yourself out of breath after 4-5 repetitions and that is also ok. You should not run through the sequences but transition slowly and focus on your breathing.
Meditate: After a few repetitions (4 or 5), you should sit quietly and try to meditate in the remaining time. Meditation is when you truly relax and let go of any worries, emotions, to-do lists, past or future, relationships, feelings, everything and just be in the moment with a quiet mind.
While doing this you will realise how restless your mind really is and how little control you have over it. Meditation is in part about control of our minds. And this is not easy. Think of when you see a baby learning to walk or learning to hold things. It takes time and patience to learn meditation. But it is something that everyone should master.
Studies have shown that mindful meditation can lengthen the telomeres that shorten with age, reversing the process of ageing to some effect (Ref2). Further, the after effects of a session of mindful meditation are downward regulation of genes involved in inflammation and also result in faster cortisol recovery in stressful situations (Ref3).
Read more about the benefits of meditation and what you can do to meditate successfully- The Elusive Trance of Meditation.
Yoga and meditation are very closely knit. Control of breath in both is used as a tool to calm the mind and senses. You should do this diligently everyday and only then you will make progress and able to get more and more benefit from it.
What else you can do outside of the 10 minutes?
Here are some other ways in which you can steal some movement from your busy weekday:
1. Take the stairs, always. Even if you start off by climbing only 2 floors of the 15th floor that you want to go to.
2. Walk while talking on the phone – walk around in your cubicle, in your cafeteria, outside your office building, while at home.
3. Have a standing work station. Speak to your supervisor about getting a few of these installed – their health benefits immense.
4. I would also recommend getting a fitness band just so that you are aware your activity levels and possibly be motivated to push yourself a little bit more. Know more about how fitness bands can help.
5. For those who lack the time to exercise during the weekdays, make up for it in the weekend. Play a sport for a few hours with friends – badminton, tennis, swimming, cricket- anything goes; take a long, leisurely walk in the nearest park; take a walking tour or search for mountain climbing, trekking or cycling routes in and around your city.
Besides physical exercise, you need to be watchful of what you are eating as well. Do not overeat or indulge in rich and heavy foods as it will dull your senses and make you lethargic. Fresh juice is much better than coffee or tea in re-awakening the senses.
Make the right choices throughout the day and even though there is no promise of a ripped mid-section, you can still maintain your fitness and possibly progress towards becoming calmer, balanced and also healthy in only 10 minutes a day!
Note: Yoga and meditation should be practiced on an empty stomach so it is best to do them in the morning or ~2-3 hours after a meal.
PS: Meditation has many noted benefits to our mental, physical and emotional states. But an important reason why people continue to practice it despite the difficulties is because of the spiritual evolution and awakening that it promises. More on this in future posts. 🙂
Ref1: Stellar JE, John-Henderson N, et al. Positive affect and markers of inflammation: discrete positive emotions predict lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. Emotion. 2015 Apr;15(2):129-33.
Ref2: Epel E, Daubenmier D, et al. Can Meditation slow rate of cellular ageing? Cognitive stress, mindfulness and telomeres. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009, Aug; 1179:34-53
Ref3: Kaliman P, Alvarez-Lopez MJ, et al. Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014 Feb; 40:96-107