How culture of short, quick workouts is a 15-minute daily wonder towards good health

Many health professionals vouch for the 150-minute a week of moderate physical activity routine, that focuses more on the 80-20 diet-exercise rule

Google ’15-minute workouts’ and you will find over 27 million search results. These include everything from burpees and plank jacks to dancercise and walks at home.

When the pandemic arrived, it shut down many businesses, including gyms and workout studios. Monthly/ annual subscriptions and hourly workouts using gym equipment didn’t find a space in the new lifestyles of working-from-home fitness enthusiasts.

On the other hand, it also pushed people to look for quick workouts to keep lethargy at bay. Increasing food intake and sedentary lifestyles while staying at home, encouraged people to look for workouts that they could do at home.

So, while many looked for quick workouts online, others joined fitness groups on WhatsApp that claimed to help reduce weight with just 15 minutes of exercise each day.

Many health professionals vouch for the 150-minute a week of moderate physical activity routine, that focuses more on the 80-20 diet-exercise rule. A lot of research in this direction also points to the umpteen benefits of 15 minutes of physical activity per day ranging from lower stress to cognitive performance improvement. In fact, according to research published in Lancet, 15 minutes of exercise per day can extend life expectancy by three years. That perhaps is the reason why this new culture of short, quick workouts, has come into focus.

Dinaz Vervatvala, who has coached sportspersons like Saina Nehwal besides film stars like Chiranjeevi is a strong believer in simple, everyday workouts for “everyone who isn’t lucky to workout for a longer time.”

This wellness coach has been in the fitness, nutrition and mind programming space for about 30 years. Using a learning management system, she currently coaches over 3,500 people across the country. “It’s 80 per cent mind programming and 20 per cent physical fitness,” she says. In her opinion, about 30 minutes of accumulated exercise a day is sufficient. And for those who don’t have the time, breaking these into 3-4 segments of 10 minutes each, throughout the day helps, she explains.

The recorded sessions of Dinaz as well are for 10 minutes each as this certified digital coach believes in functional training rather than mere fitness training, and nutrition counselling instead of diet counselling.

Belonging to a similar line of thought is Kripa Dharmaraj aka KD, a certified health coach. Her own weight loss journey inspired her to start a community for busy mothers who find short duration exercises less time taxing and therefore more doable. “My courses revolve around building a healthy lifestyle,” she explains, adding that the goals could be anything from weight loss and bodybuilding to better sleep or increasing stamina. “When the goal is simple, the time spent is less, but the effort is consistent,” says KD emphasizing the thought process behind short-duration exercises.

KD lost 20 kilos and reduced from a size XXL to S. She attributes it to a healthy lifestyle including NEAT or Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis. NEAT refers to the energy you spend doing everything besides, eating, sleeping or non-sports activity. So, if you are walking down the stairs or cycling to work or even cleaning the house or playing with your kids, you are increasing your metabolic rate. Simple standing can also help in expending energy. The idea is to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and maintain an active one.

“Our ancestors did not hit the gym to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Instead, they had the opportunities to move, bend, lift and squat more due to lesser technology and automation in their lives. The current, sedentary generation could choose to make a few tweaks in their lifestyle,” KD explains. The irony though is that since the pandemic arrived, automation has taken over more of the household chores. According to Amazon’s search trends in India for 2021, while there was a 40 per cent increase in search for healthy foods as compared to the corresponding period in 2020, there was a whopping 98 per cent increase in searches for robot vacuum cleaners.

KD, however, insists on the promises of NEAT and explains that her health and fitness journey led her to even win Mrs. South India in 2021. “Now I see hundreds of mothers get amazing results through these learnings,” she adds.

Low impact exercises, however, aren’t new. Leslie Sansone, the American fitness instructor, has been promoting walk-at-home since 1980. Today, her business is reportedly worth over $200 million and what started with a VHS tape is now available via app, website and YouTube channels.

These workouts, nonetheless, do not function in silos. What makes these short workouts effective are the other components like better nutrition intake, stress management and regular sleep. That is why a lot of these fitness coaching programmes focus on meditation, me-time, defined sleep routines and creative activities.

In terms of food as well, the focus is typically on the right nutrition intake rather than diets. Including more vegetables and fruits, cutting down on sugar and mindful eating, which means focusing on food while eating, is also encouraged. Avoiding distractions like the television or mobile phone while eating and chewing food well instead of gulping it down are some of the other methods practised.

So, basically, the trend is towards avoiding fast food but giving quick and short workouts a try. With investment requirements being low in terms of time, equipment and content availability, it’s not surprising that there are more takers.

The author is a freelance writer based out of Bangalore. Views are personal.

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