Can being physically active for 5 minutes change your life? (4 min read)

Exercise reduces stress, improves blood pressure, and increases positive endorphins. Choose something you’re willing and able to do for 5 minutes.
Photo credit (istock)

Can being physically active for 5 minutes change your life? Yes! Whether you’re a couch potato or a regular at the gym, purposefully moving your body for 5 minutes (or more) can have many positive benefits.

You probably heard that exercise is good for you. It reduces stress, improves blood pressure and circulation, strengthens and tones your muscles, balances hormones and increases positive endorphins, regulates blood sugar levels, reduces body fat, and improves balance and coordination. 

Despite all these good things, some of us still don’t want to “exercise.” You may have reasons like pain, lack of time, it’s boring, not liking being hot or sweaty, or not knowing what to do. Generally, we avoid doing things that stir up negative feelings like guilt and embarrassment and spend more of our time doing things that elicit positive feelings like happiness and confidence.

Stop and consider: how are your feelings about exercise impacting your willingness to improve your health?

Changing your perspective about exercise might make a huge difference in your life. 

It’s way easier than you might think. All you have to do is choose a physical activity you’re willing to do for 5 minutes a day and then celebrate yourself when you’re done. 

Let’s start with the celebration part. When you celebrate your accomplishments by saying “Yay me!” or doing a little dance, your brain releases the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine. This encourages your brain to seek out that particular behavior again and again so it can get this boost. Celebrating doesn’t have to be a big deal; actually that can be more stressful, so just do a quick and easy “woohoo!” with some enthusiasm and you’re on your way to creating a new habit.

Now choose something you’re willing and able to do for 5 minutes. Make it super simple at first so you’re used to the new behavior and then over time you increase time or intensity. For 2 weeks, just do it everyday for 5 minutes. When you feel more comfortable and it starts to become routine, then you can change it up. But EVERY TIME you do it, CELEBRATE!

Here are some ideas for a 5 minute exercise routine, depending on your current activity level. All of them can be done in front of the TV!

Great for people with limited mobility

  • (2 minutes) Seated Cat-Cow. Sit up straight in a sturdy chair. Place your hands on your knees or thighs. Breathe in deeply and expand your chest as you lift your chin and extend your spine. Breathe out slowly as you round your back and tuck your chin to your chest.
  • (1 minute) Seated Spinal Twist. Sit up straight again and place one hand on the opposite knee/thigh. Exhale as you twist to look over your shoulder. Hold the twist and breathe in and out for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
  • (1 minute) Arm raises. Inhale as you lift both arms overhead. Exhale as you return them to your sides. Go slow and imagine you’re in water so you create some resistance. 
  • (1 minute) Leg lifts. Either seated or standing, lift one knee or extended leg in the air. Hold it for 5 inhale/exhale rounds. Switch sides.

Great for people with average mobility

  • (1 minute) March in place. Get your arms swinging, knees lifting, and keep your spine straight.
  • (1 minute) Reach High and Low. Inhale as you reach both arms up high. If you can, balance on your tippy toes. Exhale as you reach for the ground. You might want to try staying on your toes the whole time. Repeat.
  • (1 minute) Crunches or Situps. Lay on your back with knees in table-top position. Hold your hands lightly behind your head if you experience neck pain. Bring your face towards your knees and squeeze for 5 breaths. Repeat.
  • (1 minute) Hold a Squat. Start standing with your legs about 3 feet apart and toes pointed out slightly. Bend your knees so that your knees stay over your middle toe. Breathe in and out for 5 breaths and repeat. Or, hold it the entire minute.
  • (1 minute) Balance on One Foot. Stand straight, making sure you firmly and evenly plant your standing foot on the floor. Lift the other foot up and either bring the knee toward your stomach or extend your leg out in front of you. Hold for 5 breath cycles or more. Switch sides.

Great for people who are considered fit

All of these can be done at a high intensity with rest in between.

  • (40 seconds) Burpees. Inhale while reaching up high. Exhale and plant your hands on the floor. Jump both feet back into a plank position. Inhale and exhale while doing 1-5 push ups. Jump your feet back between your hands and inhale to reach the arms back up. Repeat.
  • (1.5 minutes) Bicycle crunches. Lay on your back with your hands holding lightly on to your ears (this prevents you from pulling on your neck). Bring your knee and opposite elbow together then switch sides. Increase intensity by extending your legs as your switch.
  • (1 minute) Down Dog Hold. Breathing very slowly, hold a downward dog pose. Keep arms and legs firm and send your weight back towards your hips and heels.
  • (1 minute) Donkey Kicks. From downward dog, jump forward and up to kick your heels into your butt. Try to float so that you hold in the air and land as lightly as possible. 

Author: Tamara Kinoshita, Wellness Educator & Coach