Every Bit Adds Up to Better Health

Don’t have time for the gym? Try quick bursts of intense activity over the day. Ten minutes here and there just may do the body good.

Being physically active is important for keeping a stable body weight and promoting total health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends we aim for:

  • 150–300 minutes of medium-intensity aerobic physical activity, or
  •  75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic physical activity, or
  • Strength or “muscle-building” activities at least 2 days each week.

With busy work schedules, it is hard for many of us to set aside time for a 30- or 60-minute workout. A recent study in the American Journal of Health Promotion showed that meeting weekly physical activity goals by doing less than 10 minutes of physical activity at a time could possibly help your health the same as doing 10 minutes or more at a time.

This study looked at information from the 2003–2004 and 2005–2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a survey that gathers health and nutrition information about Americans each year. For this study, there were 6,321 adults ages 18–85. The scientists questioned whether doing less than 10 minutes of medium or high-intensity physical activity at a time was linked with better health than doing at least 10 minutes at a time. They measured waist size, blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

There was no difference in waist size, blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure between the group of less than 10 minutes versus the group of 10 minutes or more of activity. However, those who did more intense bouts of activity, despite the number of minutes, had better overall health. This link was even stronger for the people who met the weekly physical activity goals. Those who met weekly physical activity goals doing 10 minutes or more bouts of activity had healthier weights.

Bottom Line. Sitting less, being physical active, and trying to meet weekly physical activity goals are key to optimal health. Aim for as high of intensity that your are capable of.

Visit these websites for physical activity ideas:

Author: Ashley Delgado, Master of Clinical Nutrition student, UT Southwestern Medical Center

Edited by: Lona Sandon, M.Ed., R.D.N., L.D., Assistant Professor, UT Southwestern Medical Center


  • Loprinzi PD, Cardinal BJ. Association Between Biologic Outcomes and Objectively Measured Physical Activity Accumulated in ≥ 10-Minute Bouts and < 10-Minute Bouts. AM J Health Promot 2013;27(3):143-151.
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2008.
  • How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Accessed February 16, 2013.
  • What Is Physical Activity? United States Department of Agriculture website. Accessed February 16, 2013.