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Exercise frequency 15 minutes a day or 1 hour once a week is better?

Which is more important? Exercise frequency or duration?

When we are very busy and stressed, we tend to put exercise into the backburner and reach out for the fridge instead.  We may schedule exercise only on weekends and spent about few hours exercising on each day to ‘compensate’ on the week of inactivity.

Is there a difference? If the time put into the exercise totals up, does it matter if you do it once a week or break it into 5 times smaller sessions?

There is a difference: if you want to exercise, aim for consistency- exercise 4 or 5 times a week at 10 to 15 minutes (better if you can stretch up to 30 minutes) is more effective than putting in a 2 hour workout once a week.

The simile: When you take your meals, what do you feel if you take only one meal a day and the rest of the day you don’t eat? You’ll probably get gastric and feel miserably stressed because your crave food but stop yourself from eating. 

Why aim for frequency and consistency is better:

  • Even if you exercise for just 15 minutes a day every morning, you will be amazed at the difference you feel. Your energy level increases and you feel better to tackle the day- that would be a strong motivator. If you do it only on every Sunday for instance, by Wednesday or Thursday, your energy levels would probably hit rock bottom especially if your job is stressful, coupled with the typical city processed food diet.
  • You’ll suffer from less muscle cramps and stiffness because your body got used to the movement almost daily
  • Exercise becomes almost like a daily thing that you’ll do- so it’s no big deal and does not make you feel like ‘just do it and get it over and be done with’.

I like what Fred Miller has writen in his book, “Yoga for Common Aches and Pain“. In his book, he shared his personal experience why even short practice time daily makes a difference:

How long should you practice?

In the beginning, I recommend practicing only five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night. No music teacher would say that two five-minute segments a day could get you a record contract. Nor would a football coach tell you that this practice schedule could get you into the Super Bowl. Yet the fact remains that it will relax your body, calm you down, and change your life.

When I first started practicing yoga, the classes were one-and-a-half hours long. They seemed endless. I was sore and exhausted. Also, my schedule did not allow for many classes each week, which meant every time I started again, it was torture.

Finally, I realized it would be more beneficial for me to practice a little bit every day rather than an hour and a half once a week. Slowly, my short practices started to become a habit. I aim for a short practice morning and night, but I don’t always make it. Start slow but practice often. A few minutes each day is the perfect way to start. Regularity is what breeds rewards, and what matters is not so much the amount of time as the pattern of consistency doing it. The time you spend in your yoga practice will expand when you have the time. Some days you will find you want and need twenty minutes, and you will take it. Other days, if you have only five minutes to spare, you will already have personal experience of the great benefits you reap in only five minutes. When you establish some consistency, you will practice because you want to rather than feeling like it is an obligation.

The book also went on to provide explanation on many yoga poses you can do that combines with breathing.

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  • David C. March 27, 2011, 12:21 am

    My opinion is not the duration thats important but the intensity. A short exercise duration with high intensity will give more afterburn effect after the workout.

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