Most of us have the preconceived notion that in order to be good for us, exercise has to last a while and take a lot of energy. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has a hard time even changing into workout gear if I know my workout is going to be shorter than 30 minutes. But as it turns out, there are surprising mental health benefits of just 10 minutes of exercise, that we've all got time for. Heck, even changing into sneakers hardly adds any time to that routine!
Researchers have found that just 10 minutes of moderate intensity exercise can leave you with improved sleep, stress relief, and an improved mood, according to a study published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal Of Clinical Psychiatry. In fact, the article's authors even point out that exercise is often overlooked by mental health professionals and their patients as a credible intervention for ailments like depression or anxiety.
Certain exercises, as minimal as gardening or dancing, have been known to cause vast improvements in mood in patients with mental health issues, possibly "caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain and by an influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis," the study explained. That term is as fancy as it is important; the HPA axis is involved in controlling motivation and mood, our response to stress, and memory formation, so we'd be well served to keep it stoked and supplied with blood!
Of course, it begs the question: How much time and energy do we need to spend pumping iron or running around the block in order to get these benefits? " minutes of exercise of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking for [three] days a week, is sufficient for these health benefits." suggested the researchers. However, you can split that 30 minutes up! "The authors of the study explain "three 10-minute walks are believed to be as equally useful as one 30-minute walk." And there's no way you can argue that's not worth changing into your sneakers for.
1. Increased Interest In Sex
Talk about a doozy of a mental health benefit, right? Mary Claire Haver, an ob-gyn at the University of Texas Medical Branch, explained to Shape that adding any small bit of exercise to your routine can increase your interest in sex, "If someone is sedentary and starts exercising in any form, they will see an improvement in their libido." However, Dr. Haver warned that there was a limit to this advice: over-training can have the opposite effect because it exhausts your body too much to care at all about sex!
2. Increased Mental Sharpness
Who doesn't want to benefit from a more alert brain? Researchers in the department of kinesiology at Western University in Canada tested healthy young adults to see the benefits of 10 minute bursts of exercise on their brains. They compared a group of cyclists to another group that was instructed to sit and read for the same amount of time. The result was obvious: a 14% jump in cognitive performance for the cycling group and nada for the reading group. The study's author, Matthew Heath, told Time that a bout of exercise can give you an extra mental boost, "especially before a mentally challenging task, like an exam or presentation."
3. Stress Relief
Thankfully, you don't have to log miles on the treadmill in order to feel stress relief from exercise. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggested, "a brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache." In fact, they reported, "Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout." So you can feel a little smug about your short workout as well!
4. Improved Sleep
While it might not seem like a small amount of exercise is quite enough to knock you out for the night, Sleep.org reported that as little as 10 minutes of exercise a day can increase sleep duration and quality. Additionally, "exercisers may reduce their risk for developing troublesome sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome," they explained.
5. Ward Off PTSD
One of the benefits of short bouts of exercise is to help your mind get back on track after trauma or in the instance of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. "By really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma," said Help Guide, a resource for mental and emotional health topics and advice.
Now matter how busy your schedule, it's worth your while to carve out a little bit of time to engage in some type of physical exercise. When it comes to your mental well-being, a little bit goes a long way.
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