Mind Over Matter: You Do Have Time to Work Out!

Mind Over Matter: You Do Have Time to Work Out!

unnamed (2)by Amie King, PT

Working out

Another therapist and I were discussing patient outcomes the other day and marveled a bit at the difference noted between the patients who come in to physical therapy with a healthy exercise routine already in place, and those who do not. This, of course, is never the only factor that can determine if you will have a short and successful recovery, but it definitely plays a major role!

Clipart Illustration of a Healthy Red Heart Running PastI know that most people are at least somewhat aware of the benefits of exercise for a great myriad of reasons, ranging from decreasing your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain types of cancer, and metabolic syndromes, to preventing osteoporosis, the risk of falls, and declining cognitive function in older adults – not to mention improved mood, decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety, preventing weight gain (or promoting weight loss) and improving sleep!

So, if we all are well aware of these benefits, then why aren’t we all doing it? I hear many excuses each and every day, but the most common has to be lack of time. I understand this on many levels, but also want to encourage you – you do have the time!

We’ve all heard it before: mind over matter. Perhaps a minor shift in priorities and mentalities is necessary (you’d be amazed how much time gets sucked away in electronics/social media…  Quick tip: try a quick workout during the commercials, or swap out Facebook/Candy Crush with some jumping jacks!).  Try not to consider exercise an insurmountable task, because, let’s be honest – it isn’t.

The good news is that there is an increasing amount of research out there showing that, in fact, spending lots of time trudging away on a piece of cardio equipment actually isn’t the best way to exercise. First and foremost, the best exercise for you is one that you will not hate (and perhaps even enjoy!).  If hopping on an elliptical and reading a book is your thing, then stick with that!  Doing what you’re used to is perfectly acceptable, however, over the past few years, researchers and scientists are starting to think outside the box – and it’s time we do, too, if you are using time as an excuse not to work out!

a736f9302942141d9e2b5cd7649226d4One form of exercise that takes such minimal time (really no way to use time management as an excuse) is High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT. In the time it takes for one snooze on your alarm or about the time it takes water to boil, you could get a workout in that could provide you all the benefits you deserve. It almost sounds too good to be true, right? The caveat is that you have to put big effort in to those few minutes to really make them count, and then you can reap almost all of the benefits of exercise noted above.

I bet you want to know how, right? There are different thoughts out there about HIIT, and some do ask for “intense” or “ultra-intense” exercise, however, some require a bit less intensity. Be smart, talk to your doctor if there are any concerns, and choose a program that’s right for you. There is a growing amount of information about HIIT programs on the internet that you can familiarize yourself with.

How do I do it?

Here is an example of one of the simplest, quickest and easiest ones that can work for most people.  This was developed and studied by Jamie Timmons, a professor of Systems Biology at the University of Loughborough in England.  It works as follows:

1.  warm up for a couple of minutes with easy intensity, then go as hard as you possibly can for 20 seconds

2.  catch your breath for a gentle one or two minute easy intensity, then again go as hard as you can again for 20 second

3.  one final time, easy intensity for one or two minutes, then one last time as hard as you can for 20 seconds

THAT’S IT! Do it 3 times a week, for a total of 3 minutes of hard exercise and 4 to 6 minutes of easy minutes per week. A total of under 10 minutes a week! Who doesn’t have time for that?

Studies are now showing that this particular workout alone improves insulin sensitivity by 24%, after just four weeks.  (Low insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance is a main risk factor for metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk for heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.)  There are other HIIT protocols that call for 12 minutes or even 30 per workout, but you could work up to those if you end up loving it!

Defining Intensity:

What exactly should you do for the easy/hard intensity exercise?  That is completely up to you and what you like/can do.  Biking, walking and swimming are all examples of acceptable forms of exercise, to name a few.  Take walking, for example: You might start out with an easy walk followed by a top speed walk outside, or add both speed and incline on a treadmill to make it harder.


Have a knee or ankle or back injury that prevents either of those?  Do some easy theraband rows followed by intervals of the most difficult form of push-up you can do (on the floor, hands on a bed or counter, etc.), as fast as you can for 20 seconds. No fancy equipment required!

There are literally hundreds of simple, body weight resisted exercises available to choose from to accomplish this workout in a way that is safe, convenient and works for you. Please ask your therapist or send me an email with any questions you may have @

Still hesitant at the thought of exercise? Try just four weeks of the above HIIT program (remember, that would be just 36 minutes of total exercise for that entire 4 weeks!).  See how you feel after that, and see how easy it is to create space for your health and your well-being.  Getting stronger, sleeping better, and improving your health will help you in physical therapy, prevent future injuries and benefit you in more ways than you can count.  Let us know how it goes!

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