It's all you need to start a habit....
As we transition into nicer weather, it’s harder to lean on excuses not to exercise. The pandemic gave us the perfect reason to slack off. Gyms and studios closed, and we were instructed to distance socially. If you relied on classes for inspiration, signing up and attending virtually didn’t provide the same kick. And that bi-weekly fast walk with the neighbor fell off the radar during COVID.
People did it!
In fact, many people commit to get in shape during lockdown because they could. More time, boredom, and free coaching on the web motivated people that may not have started otherwise. In many ways, the pandemic changed the fitness industry forever. Creative people have taken advantage of YouTube, and other venues to market themselves and inspire the masses.
If you are still lacking motivation to kickstart a fitness habit after the stress of 2020, I’m here to say, it only takes 10 minutes! Now you have almost zero reason not to exercise. The weather is improving, gyms are open, there are free workout videos all over the web — AND, it only takes 10 minutes.
What’s the least amount of exercise you can do and still gain health benefits?
According to The Department of Health and Human Services(DHHS), 150-minutes of exercise a week is the magic number for gaining health benefits, and there are many. The Lancet published an article citing benefits from just 90-minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week. (Ahem… that’s 10.5 minutes a day.)
Two-ish hours a week of exercise is not a problem for me now, but this wasn’t always the case. (Somehow minutes-per-day feels more doable than hours-per-week. In fact, daily exercise in small doses could have more health benefits than just one longer session a week.)
Why 10 minutes?
I knew that if I set the bar too high, say 20 minutes, I’d find a way to wiggle out of it. Five minutes wasn’t enough. Ten minutes was just enough to work up a sweat, yet not enough time to say I didn’t have time.
Everyone has 10 minutes.
I convinced myself that if I talked myself out of 10-minutes of exercise, I had bigger problems than a large derriere.
There was an outdoor track just blocks from my home. “Just one lap!” I’d say to myself. I’d commit to run, just one lap, around the track every morning for six weeks. (I had to have an end point, a finish line, so I knew the torture would end.)
I ran in the rain. I ran in the cold. I ran-walked if I was sore or didn’t feel up to it. Because if I didn’t run, the negative self-talk was way worse than the effort it took me to just do it. One lap took me exactly 10 minutes. I would then shower, grab an apple and coffee and head to work.
One lap turned to two. Two laps turned to four. By the end of that year, I was running four miles before work every day and feeling great! That year, I signed up for 3K races, 5K races, and was calling myself a runner. Making a commitment and sticking to it, helped me transform my body, but more importantly, I felt good about myself. It wasn’t just about fitness. I kept my promise to myself. My routine taught me that my daily decisions determine the trajectory of my life.
I ultimately went back to school and quit my job.
Fast forward to now
I don’t run as much now, but I do other activities to stay fit. When I am in a lull, I remind myself that I don’t have to accomplish every goal I set for myself all at once. When I feel stuck or overwhelmed, I use the 10-minute rule. The 10 minutes could be applied to anything you want to do that you tend to put off: writing, reading, studying, or exercise. The 10-minutes a day commitment is a start, a promise, a dent in your progress — and a start is better than nothing.
Below are things I have done to keep myself motivated when the gap between where I am and my goals feels overwhelming. The focus of this article is meant to show how 10 minutes of exercise can improve your health, but as mentioned, it can work for anything. Here are some suggestions for implementing the 10-minute rule into your life:
1) Plan your reward. What would you prefer to do right now instead of exercise (or meditate, or write, or whatever it is you continue to put off in your life)? You can still do that AFTER you work out for 10 minutes. By the time you sift through all the excuses not to do what you know you should, you’re done!
2) Set the bar low. Ten minutes is all you need to do to reach your daily goal. Everyone has 10 minutes. Resist telling yourself that 10 minutes isn’t enough time to do squat. After a week of exercising for ten minutes a day, you’ll have worked out for over an hour! It’s sure better than nothing.
3) Plan your workout. Write down what exercise you will do the night before so you don’t have to think about it that day. Instead of wasting time thinking about it, it becomes part of your to-do list. You just check it off. If you’re the spontaneous type, then schedule your 10 min “whatever exercise” time. Spontaneous people often have a bit of ADD (trust me, I know), so better plan this 10 minutes ahead or you’ll forget!
4) Reinforce your new habit. I wish I could just snap my fingers and instill a new mindset, but it doesn’t work that way. We have to build new habits. If you need motivation, there are daily tracker and habit apps that you can download to keep you on track. Just type “habit” in the app search bar to select one. Repetition and reinforcement will make any task seem less difficult. On the days you are dragging remember, IT’S JUST 10 MINUTES. You’d spend that long beating yourself up for not doing it anyway!
5) Reward yourself. If you stick to the 10-minutes of exercise a day for a week, reward yourself!! Buy yourself something, get a massage, or do something that feels indulgent because you deserve it. You kept a promise to yourself and proved that you can do anything you set your mind to do.
If you feel that 10 minutes is not enough time, then commit to 20, which gets you that 150 minutes a week the CDC and DHHS recommends. But 20 minutes will feel like a lot on the days you are in a funk. Think about how many times you‘ve spent 20 minutes being completely unproductive. Take just half that time and use it to improve your fitness.
The biggest benefit of the 10-minutes-a-day commitment is that you start a new habit. It’s a great way to build confidence and make headway in pursuit of anything you want to do yet don’t (think you) have the time or energy to start.
Let me know how it goes!
If you’d like to learn more healthy tips and stay in touch, sign up for my Be Well newsletter! Or, sign up for my Strengthen Your Bones program. Here, you’ll be guided in a 20-30 min routine 3-4 times a week with a goal of strong muscles and bones for 6 weeks. Learn more here.