Micro Exercise: What is it and More Importantly, Can it Get Us in Better Shape?

Approximately 80 percent of adults and adolescents in this country are insufficiently active. We know that physical activity (PA) promotes optimal growth and development. As a result, it allows people to feel, function, perform and even sleep better. There is an abundance of research that shows PA can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. Moreover, individuals who “are physically active for about 150-minutes a week have a 33 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who are physically inactive, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. But the question you need to ask is, how long does one really need to engage in exercise each day? What is the minimal dose effect we need to stay improve health? Can micro exercise fit the need here?

“Physical inactivity is as harmful to your health as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.” 

~ Steven Blair, PhD, University of South CArolina

What is Micro Exercise Exactly?

Micro exercise has been described as any physical activity or a short workout that takes between 3 and 10 minutes to complete. Included in the description of what constitutes micro exercise are walking, stair-climbing, household chores and doing many of the traditional bodyweight exercises such as squats, push-ups, planks, lunges and burpees. In fact, a study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism “found three bouts a day of vigorous stair workouts done three times a week was highly effective at improving cardiovascular health.” The Harvard Alumni study also found that men who average at least eight flights a day of stairs enjoy a 33 percent lower mortality rate compared to men who are sedentary. If sedentary individuals add more of these activities throughout their day and repeat them, three to five times for 3 to 10-minutes per day, it could have, as research contends, similar health advantages to HIIT.

Will Micro Exercise Actually Get Us in Better Shape?

Research has shown short, intense bouts of exercise between 3 and 10-minutes, added throughout the day, can in fact improve health. The one caveat is, it has to total 30-minutes before you place your head down on your pillow for bedtime.

A Few Micro Exercises Ideas to Try

  • Conference call walks throughout the day or JFW (Just F—ing Walk) 
  • Skip the elevator and say hello to stairs
  • Bodyweight exercises added throughout the day (burpees, lunges, jumping jacks, T-push-ups, squat jumps, plank, etc.)
  • Add in yoga moves like the crow, one-leg stances or lunch with rotation
  • Take a short ElliptiGo SUB (stand up bike) at lunch time (I have one it’s a great workout)
  • Jump rope for 3-4 minutes
  • You get the idea…

Lastly, the next time you see a flight of stairs, make sure you climb them. Try to jog a bit while walking the dog or possibly add-in a 3-minute plank before you shower. Mixing in a few additional bouts of short, intense activity – throughout your day – like those mentioned here will most definitely improve your health and fitness. Keep micro exercise at the forefront of your mind as a secondary fitness option. Nothing obviously can replace your regular strength training workouts. Stay strong!


Jenkins, E. M., Nairn, L. N., Skelly, L. E., Little, J. P., & Gibala, M. J. (2019). Do stair climbing exercise “snacks” improve cardiorespiratory fitness?. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 44(6), 681-684.

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