If you’re like most moms, there are some days where fitting exercise into your day just isn’t possible. But you can still improve your health and fitness by trying these micro workouts for women.
Because even when you can’t get to the gym for a formal workout, even small bursts of physical activity are better than nothing, and can really add up throughout the day.
Micro workouts are becoming increasingly popular for women. These are brief bouts of exercise that can be done at short intervals throughout the day.
Even a few minutes here or there is better than not doing any exercise at all.
Short Workouts with Big Health Benefits
A recent 2018 study from the American Heart Association showed that shorter periods of exercise lasting 5-10 minutes performed throughout the day can help reduce mortality.
While the AHA still recommends 150 total minutes a week of moderate to vigorous activity, this research found that it doesn’t really matter how that activity is accumulated.
So even with multiple, sporadic bouts of exercise, you can still achieve these health benefits (1).
Since micro workouts can be done in five to ten-minute intervals, the key to getting a quality workout is to really up the intensity.
This will ensure you are still burning calories and gaining a cardiovascular benefit in a minimal amount of time.
Workout at Higher Intensity
Short episodes of high-intensity exercise will not only burn calories while you are working out but also after you finish exercising.
This, in turn, will improve your cardiovascular fitness and help you burn calories and lose weight.
High-intensity interval training has been shown to produce similar calorie-burning potentials over 24 hours compared to longer bouts of lower intensity endurance exercise.
This is despite being much shorter in duration (2).
And this is precisely what micro workouts can help you achieve.
So if you know it’s going to be one of those days where you’re going to miss out on your planned workout, try one of these top micro workouts for women.
5 Great Micro Workouts for Women
1) Micro Workout For the Stay At Home Mom
Need to fit in a quick workout between your kids’ naps? Here is a great micro workout that can be done right from your living room.
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds then rest 30 seconds.
Burpees with Push Up:
Squat down, stand back up, then kick forward with the right leg.
Bring the right leg back, squat again, then kick forward with the left leg as you stand. Continue alternating sides.
Start in a plank position. Hop both feet up to the right, trying to bring your knees to the outside of your right elbow.
Hop back into plank position, then bring your knees to the left. Continue alternating sides.
Tricep Dips with Leg Extension:
Using a chair or step, lower into a tricep dip. As you push up, straighten your right leg and reach your left hand towards your right toe.
Lower your leg and repeat, alternating sides.
Pushup to a side plank:
Start in a plank position and lower down into a pushup. As you push back up, rotate your body to the right, moving your right arm straight up into a side plank.
Rotate back, do another push-up, and then do a side plank to the left. Continue alternating sides after each push-up.
Try to hold a plank for as long as you can until your form fails. Aim for at least 15 seconds to start, then increase your time as you gain more core strength.
This is a quick 5-minute micro workout. If you have a little extra time, rest for one minute, then repeat the circuit again.
Or, do this 5-minute workout several times throughout the day whenever you have some free time.
2) Vacation Micro Workout
On the road with the family and want to sneak in a quick workout?
This is one of our micro workouts for women that you can do either inside or outside in the sun.
Try to move from one exercise to the next with minimal rest.
Body Weight Squats:
Perform 15 bodyweight squats.
Bear Crawls with Push-Ups:
Squat down and walk your hands out into a plank. Do a pushup, then walk the hands back and stand up. Repeat for 30 seconds.
These can be done on a chair, the ground, or on a short step. Perform 15-20 dips.
Hold your hands in front of you at chest height with your palms down. Dip down into a quarter squat and immediately jump upward.
Drive the knees towards the chest, attempting to touch them to the palms of your hands. Then land by re-extending your legs with knees slightly bent.
Repeat as quickly as possible for 30 seconds.
Do 10 front lunges with each leg.
Lay on your stomach on the floor or exercise mat. Extend your arms in front of you.
Contract our glutes and back to raise your arms, legs, and chest off of the floor.
Once in this position pulse your arms up and down by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Continue for 30 seconds.
If you have a little extra time, rest for one minute, then repeat the micro workout again.
3) Work Trip Stair Micro Workout
Stuck in a hotel without a gym during travel for work? No worries!
This stair micro workout is an easy way to get in some quick cardio and strength training.
- Sprint up one flight of stairs. Do 10 jumping jacks at the top, then jog back down.
- Sprint up two flights of stairs. Perform 5 bodyweight squats at the top, then jog back down.
- Sprint up three flights of stairs. Do 5 burpees (with or without a push up), then jog back down.
This is a quick micro workout that will have your heart pumping and your legs screaming.
A recent study out of McMaster University in Ontario even found that stair workouts are an excellent way to increase your cardiovascular fitness, even when done in short bursts (3).
If you have the time, try to do this a couple of times throughout the day.
4) Resistance Band Micro Workout
This is an excellent micro workout that uses resistance bands. This allows you to fit in some quick strength training, even on the busiest of days.
And research has shown that resistance training in women can improve fitness.
A 2015 cross-sectional analysis from the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that women who engaged in resistance exercise had lower total cardiovascular disease risk at any age.
Specifically, resistance exercise was associated with lower body fat, fasting glucose and total cholesterol (4).
Front Pull Aparts:
Grab a light band and start with your hands about shoulder-width apart.
Raise your arms up straight out in front of you at chest level and pull the band apart. Bring your shoulder blades together to really engage the back muscles.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a tube resistance band under your feet so that you can grab the handles at both ends.
Grab the handles with an underhand grip, then curl the band up to your shoulders. Lower back down slowly.
Band Tricep Kickbacks:
Stand with your feet about hip-width apart with a tube resistance band under your feet.
Hold a handle in each hand, palms facing in. Hinge forward at the waist and bend your arms to 90 degrees while keeping your core engaged.
Extend your arms straight back behind you while keeping your elbows close to your side. Then slowly return to the starting position.
Squat to Shoulder Press:
Stand on top of the resistance band with feet hip-width apart. Hold the handles with an overhand grip with your arms at shoulder-level.
Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor while keeping your hands by your shoulders.
Next, stand back up while pressing the handles overhead until your arms are fully extended. Then bring your arms back to shoulder-height.
Do each exercise above for thirty seconds, then move right into the next exercise. If you have time, try to repeat 2-3 more times.
Or do this micro workout sporadically throughout the day whenever you have a few minutes of free time.
5) The Take-What-You-Can-Get Micro Workout
Okay, so there are going to be days when you don’t even have 5 consecutive minutes to get in any kind of structured workout.
Here are some moves that can be done throughout the day, whenever you have 30 seconds to a minute to spare.
While it may not sound like much, by the end of the day you will have accumulated quite a few reps!
And training volume over time has been shown to improve muscle strength (5).
So try to sneak in these micro workout exercises whenever you have a few spare minutes during the day.
Chair tricep dips:
Do as many reps of tricep dips as you can fit in during a 30 to 60-second break.
Try different variations throughout the day here! Start with standard push-ups.
The next time you have a quick break, try 30 seconds of spiderman push-ups or military push-ups.
Body Weight Squats:
You can do these standing next to your desk whenever you have a few spare minutes.
Plus, standing up intermittently when you have a desk job will help your posture.
Fit in Exercise Any Day with Micro Workouts
Micro workouts for women are an excellent way to add some exercise into your day when you can’t get a full workout in.
These won’t replace regularly scheduled workouts but are definitely better than doing nothing on days when you aren’t able to get to the gym.
Just remember to keep the intensity up! You are only doing these exercises for short intervals, so in order to get any fitness benefit, you really need to challenge yourself.
But just because these exercises are short in duration does not mean that you can get sloppy.
Always perform these movements with proper form, even at high intensities, to avoid injury.
The Fit Mother Project offers some great articles and programs that help incorporate exercises and health advice, including quick workouts like the ones above.
Trying out different types of workouts will keep you engaged and motivated so that you never get bored with the same workouts every day.
For example, this 6 minute HIIT workout is another great micro workout that you can turn to on days when you can’t get to the gym.
So if your day is jam-packed and you aren’t able to get to your regularly scheduled workouts, don’t worry.
These micro workouts for women can help you improve your fitness and strength, even with just short bouts of activity.
Your new friend & Coach,
Holly Smith, M.D. – Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. – Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer
Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project
Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.
She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.
Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.
She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!
1) Saint‐Maurice, P. F., Troiano, R. P., Matthews, C. E., & Kraus, W. E. (2018). Moderate‐to‐vigorous physical activity and all‐cause mortality: do bouts matter?. Journal of the American Heart Association, 7(6), e007678.
2) Skelly, L. E., Andrews, P. C., Gillen, J. B., Martin, B. J., Percival, M. E., & Gibala, M. J. (2014). High-intensity interval exercise induces 24-h energy expenditure similar to traditional endurance exercise despite reduced time commitment. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism, 39(7), 845-848.
3) Jenkins, E. M., Nairn, L. N., Skelly, L. E., Little, J. P., & Gibala, M. J. (2019). Do stair climbing exercise “snacks” improve cardiorespiratory fitness?. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 44(6), 681-684.
4) Drenowatz, C., Sui, X., Fritz, S., Lavie, C. J., Beattie, P. F., Church, T. S., & Blair, S. N. (2015). The association between resistance exercise and cardiovascular disease risk in women. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 18(6), 632-636.
5) Colquhoun, R. J., Gai, C. M., Aguilar, D., Bove, D., Dolan, J., Vargas, A., … & Campbell, B. I. (2018). Training volume, not frequency, indicative of maximal strength adaptations to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 32(5), 1207-1213.