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The Power of Micro-Workouts


In today's fast-paced world, finding time for regular exercise can be a daunting challenge. However, recent scientific studies have shed light on the potential health benefits of micro-workouts, which consist of brief and simple exercise bouts. Micro-workouts are currently how I manage to maintain my weekly exercise target of 150 minutes of moderate-intense exercise. Two studies, one conducted in Denmark and another in the UK, have highlighted the remarkable advantages of incorporating micro-workouts into our daily routines. In this blog, we will explore the findings from these papers and discuss how micro-workouts can be a game-changer for individuals looking to improve their health and their well-being with limited time for exercise.

Study 1: The UK Biobank Study

The first study, conducted by researchers using data from the UK Biobank accelerometery subsample, aimed to assess the impact of daily vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity (VILPA) on the incidence of cancer among non-exercising adults. Here are the key points from this study:

Key Points:

  • A minimum dose of 3.4 to 3.6 minutes of VILPA per day was associated with a 17% to 18% reduction in total incident cancer risk compared with no VILPA.

  • A median daily VILPA of 4.5 minutes was associated with a 31% to 32% reduction in physical activity–related cancer incidence.

  • VILPA may be a promising intervention for cancer prevention among individuals unable or unmotivated to exercise in leisure time.

Benefits of Micro-Workouts:

  • Cancer Prevention: Perhaps the most striking finding from this study is the potential link between micro-workouts and reduced cancer risk. Just a few minutes of vigorous physical activity per day can significantly lower the chances of developing certain types of cancer, making micro-workouts a simple yet effective preventive measure.

  • Time-Efficiency: Micro-workouts are incredibly time-efficient. They offer a viable solution for individuals with busy schedules who struggle to find time for traditional exercise routines. Incorporating short bouts of activity into your day is more achievable and sustainable.

  • Accessible to All: Micro-workouts are accessible to almost everyone, regardless of fitness level or age. They can be performed in the comfort of your home, office, or even during daily chores. No special equipment or gym memberships are required.

  • Improved Cardiovascular Fitness: Proof-of-concept trials have demonstrated that even small doses of intermittent vigorous physical activity can lead to rapid improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness. This not only lowers the risk of cancer but also improves overall health and vitality.

Five Simple Exercises for VILPA.

First, warm up with 15-30 seconds each of jumping jacks, mountain climbers, and lunges. This’ll get your blood flowing and your muscles prepared for the hell on earth to come (but hell in a good way!).

1. Step Ups (Weighted - 12 per leg):

  • Find a sturdy surface, such as a bench, chair, or box, that can support your weight.

  • Stand in front of the chosen surface.

  • Begin by placing one foot onto the bench, ensuring your knee and quadriceps are flexed.

  • Step up onto the surface with your second foot, keeping it flat.

  • Step back down and repeat with the opposite leg.

  • To increase difficulty and intensity, consider holding something heavy like dumbbells, a small child, or a suitcase.

2. Wide Grip Push Ups (20 reps):

  • Assume a standard push-up position.

  • Widen your hand placement.

  • Perform push-ups as usual, noting that the wider hand stance will emphasise chest engagement while reducing triceps involvement and adding some back activation.

  • If these push-ups become too easy, you can add extra weight by placing a heavy object on your back.

3. Prisoner Squats (25 reps):

  • Execute the classic prisoner squat with your hands positioned behind your head, hence the name "prisoner."

  • Use your body weight for resistance.

  • These squats are excellent for building strength and perfecting squat form, ensuring your buttocks are pushed back and lowered, maintaining a straight back, and achieving at least parallel alignment of your quads to the floor.

  • For added challenge, incorporate weights like a suitcase or heavy books while maintaining proper form.

4. Shoulder Press Pushups (10 reps):

  • Assume the push-up position.

  • Visualise the typical push-up as covering 180 degrees.

  • Lift your buttocks until you approach a 90-degree angle, resembling an upside-down "V."

  • As you approach this angle, you'll engage your shoulder muscles more prominently.

  • This exercise can serve as valuable training for mastering handstand push-ups.

  • Alternatively, position your legs on a tall bed or table and place your palms on the ground, creating a 90-degree angle between the surface and the floor, resembling an overhead press.

5. Wall Squat (30 seconds):

  • Stand in a parallel squat position with your back against a wall.

  • Maintain this position for 30 seconds, keeping your thighs parallel to the floor and your back against the wall.

These exercises offer a diverse range of movements to target various muscle groups and can be adapted to different fitness levels by adjusting weights or the range of motion. Incorporate them into your workout routine for a comprehensive full-body workout.

Study 2: The Denmark Study

The second study of 70,130 workers, conducted in Denmark, focused on workplace-based micro-exercise and its potential to prevent long-term sickness absence (LTSA) in the general working population. Here are the key points from this study:

Key Points:

  • Micro-exercise performed during working hours reduced the risk of long-term sickness absence by 14% (HR 0.86).

  • If used by all workers, workplace-based micro-exercise could potentially prevent 12.8% of incident long-term sickness absence cases.

  • By contrast, such effects were not observed for workers performing micro-exercise at home, highlighting the importance of the social setting in which these are performed.

Benefits of Workplace-Based Micro-Exercise:

  • Reduced Sickness Absence: The study found a clear association between workplace-based micro-exercise and reduced risk of long-term sickness absence. This suggests that incorporating micro-workouts into the workday can help maintain employee health and productivity.

  • Improving Somatic Health: Workplace micro-exercise has been shown to alleviate somatic health symptoms, such as musculoskeletal pain, among workers. It addresses the physical strains associated with various job roles.

  • Enhanced Psychological Well-being: Micro-exercise performed with colleagues at the workplace fosters a sense of community and improves psychological and social factors, including social climate, vitality, and teamwork.

  • Scalability: Workplace-based micro-exercise is a scalable intervention that can be implemented across various industries and job types. It has the potential to reach a broad segment of the working population.


Both studies highlight the transformative potential of micro-workouts in promoting health and well-being. Micro-workouts offer a practical and time-efficient way to prevent diseases like cancer and reduce the risk of long-term sickness absence. Incorporating short bursts of physical activity into our daily lives can have a profound impact on our health, making it an appealing option for individuals of all ages and fitness levels. As we continue to navigate the demands of modern life, micro-workouts stand as a promising solution to staying active, healthy, and productive. So, take a break, do a few jumping jacks, or go for a brisk walk – your body will thank you!


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