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Can Mini Workouts Help You Lose Weight?

Patrick Scheel, RDN, LDN

Published in Weight Loss

8 min read

February 17, 2022
a person stretching at home
a person stretching at home

Does the idea of an intense workout and hours spent at the gym turn you off exercise altogether? Would you prefer short bursts of activity, or a quick workout over a long workout routine? If you've ever wondered whether you could squeeze a five-minute workout into your day and still get any fat loss or wellness benefits from it, you're not alone. 

There's a ton of weight loss advice, and thinking of how and what to start with can be overwhelming. Should you jump into an exercise routine that includes lunges, squats, jumping jacks, push-ups, and burpees? Should you try aerobic workouts or get a personal trainer? 

Whatever your fitness level and fitness goals are, another thing you may be wondering is how much time to dedicate to your workout routine. Even if your schedule is packed, being busy doesn't mean being physically active! The average American adult spends over six hours a day sitting—which means you have to make it a point to get up and move around for the sake of health and fitness. Research links sitting for extended periods to several health risks, including heart attacks and strokes

And if you're trying to meet a weight loss goal, finding time in between your busy day to work out is likely a good idea. Can engaging in a mini workout help you get your daily activity in if you're too busy to schedule 30-minute daily workouts? What even are mini workouts? Read on to find out more. 

What Are Mini Workouts?

a person rolling yoga mat

So what are mini workouts? Sometimes also known as 'exercise snacking,' or bite-sized exercise, these are small bursts of activity you can engage in throughout the day. But are they as effective as those more time-consuming workout routines? Exercise recommendations for American adults are 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (or 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity) every week. And research suggests that short workout sessions are pretty beneficial. 

Everyone's body is different, and the type and intensity of your workout will depend on your goals. Still, mini workouts are a great way to fit in exercise when you don't have 30 minutes to an hour to spend on your workout. 

What Are the Benefits of Mini Workouts?

two people stretching at home

Now that you know that activity broken up into a few minutes of exercise through the day can be as beneficial as one long burst, it's time to get moving! Use every minute you have to squeeze in some activity, whether it's a five-minute workout, a brisk walk after a meal, or a high-intensity micro workout. Still not convinced? Here are a few other benefits to consider: 

It Can Help with Scheduling

  • Mini workouts are much easier to fit into your schedule than a trip to the gym.
  • Most mini workouts are designed to fit into your busy schedule and are easy to do in your home, office, or hotel room. 
  • Fitting a short workout into your routine can help you maintain a good level of physical activity even after you meet fitness or weight loss goals

You're Likely to Keep a Commitment

  • If you're having trouble committing to an exercise class or gym routine, fitting in seven to 10-minute workouts as a way to break up your workday might be your solution. 
  • For some, finding time for a few minutes of high-intensity exercise can be less overwhelming than trying to fit in a low to moderate-intensity exercise routine. It means you're likely to stick to an exercise plan longer. 

It Can Help with Weight Loss

a person doing yoga at home
  • Trying to lose weight can be daunting, but it doesn't need to take up all your time! Fitting in activities that raise your heart rate and strengthen your muscles will help improve your metabolism and burn calories throughout the day. 
  • Studies show that short workouts can be as effective for weight loss as longer workouts.

Your Mood Will Improve

  • According to the National Library of Medicine, short workouts can be mood boosters.
  • You can do many strength training exercises like planks and push-ups in short bursts that take less than 10 minutes out of your day. And research shows that these exercises can help with several things, including boosting your mood

It Can Lower Blood Pressure

It Helps with Blood Glucose Management

  • Incorporating short bouts of movement before and after meals may help your body prevent blood sugar spikes

A Few Mini Workouts We Love

a person doing reverse push-ups at home

Think engaging in mini workouts is the right option for you? Here are some of our favorite short workouts that you can engage in to maximize your time at the gym. Each activity takes less than 15 minutes of your time, and the list includes exercises designed for different needs and fitness levels. 

Remember, not all exercise routines are for everyone. They will vary according to your fitness goals and according to what works best for your body. It's a good idea to ask for help if you're a beginner, if it's a high-intensity workout, or if you have any pre-existing health conditions. Even if it's light activity, ask a healthcare expert what your body can handle. Also, try to do any new workouts under the guidance of an expert to reduce your risk of injury. Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

Mini "Office" Yoga

Yoga may be one of the most popular forms of exercise out there today, and if it's the right fit for you, pretty easy to incorporate into your day. This 14-minute yoga practice from Yoga With Adriene is a great workday exercise to help you stretch it out and refresh your body. She even has a video for yoga at your desk if you don't have space or privacy for more. 

Mini Cardio

a person working out at home

Getting in a cardio workout doesn't mean you have to commit to a 45-minute run or an hour-long class. You can get in a cardio workout in just 10 minutes, as long as you have enough space to spread out your workout mat. This video from MadFit is a great one if you're looking for a cardio-specific mini-workout. 

Mini Bodyweight Workouts

You don't need equipment to get stronger; you can do that in a mini workout using your body weight. This 10-minute class taught by Pamela Reif is the perfect example of a full-body exercise that you can do anywhere. 

Mini Dance Breaks

a person dancing and smiling

Do you want to get your heart pumping with a good dance workout but don't want to join a class? You don't need a guide or instructor to do a little jig! Throw on your favorite jams and dance it out! Dancing may improve your mental health and has links to lower anxiety levels, increased feelings of self-esteem, and a range of other overall psychological benefits. 

Mini Stretching Sessions

Stretching can be a way to get some movement into your day and reduce stress. Mobility and circulation are just as important as building strength and can help muscles recover quicker from more intense physical activities like HIIT or strength-building workouts. This daily stretching routine led by Heather Robertson is only 10-minutes long and a great addition to your workout schedule. 

Mini HIIT Routines

a person doing squats at home

Have a big fitness goal, but you're short on time? Try high-intensity interval training for a quick workout that trains all your muscle groups. HIIT isn't typically the right fit for beginners, but if it's the right fit for you, don't let a lack of equipment or gym stop you. HIIT doesn't have to take place in a gym or take an hour out of your day. This five-minute HIIT workout will get your heart pumping and is designed for weight loss. It doesn't require any equipment either—you only need enough space to roll out your exercise mat.

Mini Core Workouts

Add a mini core workout to your daily workout routine if you're looking to tone your core. This workout led by PopSugar Fitness' founder Anna Renderer is excellent for beginners and fitness enthusiasts alike. A strong core is a great way to keep your posture and back healthy, especially if you spend hours at your desk.

Mini Strength Training Routines

a person stretching

If you're trying to build or improve your strength, look no further than your living room or home office. This workout from Zeus Fitness is a great way to continue building upper body strength. You can also intensify this workout by adding more weight. You will need dumbbells here, but several other strength training exercises don't require additional equipment.

Tips to Help You Fit Mini Workouts into Your Day

a person holding a yoga mat and looking at their phone

Establishing new habits can be intimidating. The idea behind these mini workouts is to make your fitness goals more accessible. They may not seem like much, but dedicating small amounts of time to your physical wellbeing can make a massive difference for long-term health and fitness. 

Here are some tips to help you get started:

Pencil it in: If you're prone to procrastination or feel intimidated by working out, start your journey by putting 10-minute blocks of time on your schedule. Schedule mini-breaks in between your workday so you can take a walk or get some office chair yoga in between meetings. 

Set small goals: Setting small, achievable goals will help you feel rewarded by your new habits. 

Make it a social event: Find a coworker, friend, or partner to set your goals with. If you work from home, this could be a great way to get a workout in with your roommates or partner.

Diversify your workouts: Keep things interesting and improve multiple parts of your body in one day. If you have time for two or three mini workouts, consider focusing on three different types to prevent boredom from setting in. Try ending the day with a mini yoga session or a good stretch to improve muscle recovery.

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Katie Kissane, MS, RD

Reviewed by: Katie Kissane, MS, RD

Katie is a dietitian at Nutrisense. With over 11 years of experience as a dietitian in many areas of nutrition, Katie has worked as a clinical dietitian within a hospital, as well as in the fields of diabetes, sports and performance nutrition, recovery from addiction, and general wellness. She’s also an athlete and has run 8 marathons, including the Boston Marathon.