Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

What is the least amount of time I can do cardio exercise and still get a benefit?

December 12, 2019


It has been said you can tell a person’s priorities by examining their check book and calendar. Tasks and activities which are urgent or important to us are more likely to be done on a busy day, but others like sleep or exercise may be pushed to the back burner. This is despite the overwhelming evidence on the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of aerobic exercise. Time remains a common barrier to the completion of exercise each day, but recent evidence suggests aerobic exercise bouts of shorter durations may also provide cardiovascular benefits. For example, 3 walks each day for 10 minutes is equivalent to a single 30 minute walk, but a recent review suggests the duration may be even shorter.

Jakicic and colleagues reviewed 29 articles on the effectiveness of exercise durations either greater than or less than 10 minutes in duration (Med Sci Sp Ex. 2019). Authors found similar benefits between these two durations on health outcomes and mortality rates if the bout’s intensity was moderate to vigorous. Thus, these shorter duration bouts of exercise can be combined to meet weekly exercise goals. The authors recommended following national guidelines on exercise duration (ACSM MET minutes) each week, but reported shorter, intense exercise bouts also benefit the cardiovascular system. Every minute counts for caloric burning, but patients are encouraged to exercise at least 5 minutes at a time at a moderate to vigorous level to benefit their cardiovascular systems. All individuals are encouraged to speak with a healthcare professional before beginning any exercise program.