Get the Better newsletter.
According to the 2016 National Health Interview survey from the Centers for Disease Control, only a little more than half of American adults aged 18 and over met the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity, while just over 20 percent of adults met the Physical Activity Guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.
So what’s our excuse for not being physically active? Time, says Michael Joyner, M.D., an exercise researcher at the Mayo Clinic. “Workout plans that require a time commitment can seem like a bridge too far — thus folks get discouraged before they even start,” Joyner says.
Heather Milton, MS, senior exercise physiologist at the Sports Performance Center at NYU Langone in New York City says the time excuse can also be code for “I’m not ready.” “You actually walk someone through their schedule day-to-day, and realize their barriers are really not being mentally motivated or ready. They probably have more time than they think, they just aren’t at a point where they feel they can prioritize exercise in their daily schedule,” Milton says.
That’s where 5-to-10-minute workout apps can come in handy. As we recently reported, even five minutes of intense, sweat-inducing, heart rate-raising exercise can contribute to keeping you healthy and getting you in shape.
Milton says, whenever you can fit it in, breaking up long spells at your desk or otherwise sedentary time with short bursts of intense exercise can improve your cardiovascular health and lower your risk of diabetes. Plus, it can do wonders for your workday. “The more often you can break up sedentary time, the better,” she says. “Steve Jobs always had walking meetings. Exercise boosts blood flow to your brain and neurotransmitters that improve your mood.”
And, as with almost everything these days, there’s an app for that. To keep you from wasting yet another day, we both consulted a study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and tried out 5 fitness apps with decent workouts that take ten minutes or less.
The popular Sworkit workout app is well-designed and promises “the workout you want with the time you have.” Approved in the ACSM study, it allows you to customize each program according to your goals, has seven-minute and five-minute workout options to keep your workouts brief, and allows you to skip exercises you don’t want to do.
- DURATION: 5 and 7 minutes
- COST: Offers a month-long free trial and the option of paying $10 per month with quarterly billing cycle or $79.99 per year. Available at Apple App Store and Google Play.
Basic yet effective (your guide is an icon), the Streaks Workout App cycles through customizable floor exercise routines that raise your heartrate while only requiring your own body weight. Workouts are timed in 6- (“Quick”), 12- (“Everyday”), 18- (“Tough”) and 30- (“Pain”) minute increments. It tracks which workout you used, how long it took you to get through the routine and gives you the option to time the exercise itself. For all fitness levels.
Embarrassed by public glute bridges? If you’re out to tighten your tush, this app runs you through a series of booty-firming exercises in just seven minutes (it offers the Booty Shaper and the Butt Blaster 15-minute options, too). An animated, ponytailed icon demonstrates then times each move. A voice-over encourages your progress. All you need is some floor space and comfy clothes.
This incredibly popular workout app ranked on the ACSM study and was designed by Chris Jordan, Director of Exercise Physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute. It promises a high-intensity cardio, customizable circuit workout “to get the most out of every minute.” Follow along with Jordan, track and monitor your progress — all you need is a wall or chair to do your thing. For beginners and “fitness junkies” alike.
This app “gamifies” the app workout experience, if you will, by motivating users with “lives” and “organs” to lose if you skip a day. It offers a lot of variety — along with your fitness level, you can choose between floor work, Pilates-based moves, stretches and working your lower body. All you need is a chair, a wall and your own body weight to do each exercise for 30-seconds with 10 seconds of rest between each move.
- DURATION: 7 minutes
- COST: Offers a 7-day free trial, otherwise it’s $79.99 per year. Available at Apple App Store and Google Play.