Is 10 Minutes of Daily Exercise Enough? Make Your Healthy Minutes Count

Friday Dec 19 | BY |
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It seems that for health, the range of exercise—there’s always the proverbial range—is between 30 to 90 minutes daily for at least five days a week.

Can any one really lose weight exercising ten minutes a day? If so, which exercise is best? Could it be done in six or eight minutes?

Confused about what to eat? You’re not the only one. How long should you take to consume a healthy meal, once you discover that perfect diet? For example, how long does it take to chew a cup of broccoli or a bunch of raw kale so that it’s sufficiently soft enough to digest?

How many minutes every day do we need to spend to be healthy, fit, and slim?

Let’s Start with Sleep

To figure out your healthy minutes, let’s start with sleep. Perhaps the single most important part of our day is spent in bed. Typically, we rest in bed (or on the couch), have sex in bed, sometimes watch television, and almost always sleep in our bed. And, sometimes we have breakfast in bed. When sleep scientists did the math, it turned out that we spend on average about 2,372 hours in bed every year. That’s about 6.5 hours a night.

Is that enough sleep?

You can get by on 5-6 hours of sleep a night, but to be healthy, which includes enough time for the brain to detoxify itself and for the immune system to reboot, we need between 7–9 hours of restorative sleep each night. Children and adolescents need much more: up to 12 hours a night, because those are the ages when the brain is developing the most.

It’s a given that sleep is really important, and I’ve written on that in other blogs, so let’s look at the number of minutes during the daylight hours that we need to spend on our health.

The 2-Minute Rule

What’s the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up? Do you exercise? Practice yoga? Eat? Drink tea or coffee? Take the dog for a walk? Wake up the kids? Pick up where you left off on your novel?

I greet the day by going outside among my plants. I enjoy the brilliance of early morning rays of sunlight while slowly watering the orchids and fruit trees. Then I pray or meditate. For nourishment, I drink green tea or organic coffee, and in the winter drink ginseng soup; then I have a light breakfast. And then, brush my teeth.

The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day for 2 minutes. That includes flossing, brushing with a soft bristle brush, and rinsing. Some oral hygiene specialists advocate brushing for 3 minutes: 1.5 minutes on the lower and 1.5 minutes on the upper teeth, twice daily.

Americans are a rushed nation. Who has time to devote several minutes to tooth brushing? But gum and dental health are very important. Turn on the timer on your smart phone to count the minutes you brush your teeth. You may be surprised at how long that really is!

100 Bites

My mentor, Dr. Bernard Jensen, was famous for paraphrasing Mahatma Gandhi’s aphorism: “Chew your juice and drink your food.” By that he meant that raw vegetable juices are beneficial for the body, but have to be prepared for digestion and absorption in the mouth. You need to mix juice well with saliva, which begins the enzymatic process, increasing nutrient absorption.

Don’t gulp your carrot or wheat grass juice. Drink fresh juices in small amounts or sips, swish as you would with wine to mix with saliva, and then swallow. If you’re thirsty, drink water or sip green tea.

How long should you take for lunch? In traditional societies, people enjoy leisurely meals. Not in America. We have fast foods during power lunches that fit our hyper lifestyles. We are a nation of overachievers and underchewers. But that’s not healthy.

Americans are famous for extremes. The original health-food faddists, like Horace Fletcher, believed in slowing chewing every mouthful 100 times; a chore that could take up to 10 minutes per bite. In his day, around 1912, Fletcher’s followers included generals and presidents, and famous writers like Henry James.

Modern health experts, however, don’t endorse that extreme. Research has shown that eating smaller bites and chewing longer—in effect, eating slower—promotes normal weight because the stomach signals the brain that you’re getting full. This satiety effect starts about 20 minutes after the first mouthful.

100 times per bite seems extreme. The right number of bites per mouthful seems to be between 20 to 50 times. The Indian nutritionist Naini Setalvad, who considers correct chewing the first mantra of healthy eating, recommends about 30 bites. The Japanese health ministry recommends that every citizen chew 30 times per bite. I agree—30 seems like a good number.

It takes 25 to 30 seconds to chew a mouthful of cooked food 30 times, longer for fibrous raw vegetables or meat. In traditional societies, meals can linger between 1 to 2 hours. Maybe 2 hours is too long, but certainly the 30-minute American lunch break is not long enough.

“Good digestion,” Dr. Jensen said, “begins in the mouth.” But simply reducing healthy eating to chewing is reductionist and oversimplification, and makes for a boring meal. If we use our molars more, however, masticate better, and slow down while eating, we’ll be healthier.

35 Minutes of Sweat

From my clinical experience, I don’t believe that 8 or 10 minutes workouts, unless they’re done intensively three times per day, make a significant difference in health or weight. True, some exercise is better than none, but an optimal amount is preferred when possible.

What’s considered optimal?

Exercise, like sleeping and eating, is personal. There are guidelines, though, that have proven beneficial for everyone. It seems that for health, the range of exercise—there’s always the proverbial range—is between 30 to 90 minutes daily for at least five days a week. Every one is different. Some people feel better with longer workouts. Some of us do best with short bursts of activity. Older people can take it slower, while younger people need greater intensity.

Scientific studies as far back as 1981 found that daily exercise improves mood, enhances metabolism, and prevents many diseases, including breast cancer. The average number of minutes for a healthy exercise routine appears to be 35 minutes every day. The key is that those 35 minutes need to be intensive enough that you cannot chat with a friend, and you have to sweat.

How Do You Spend Your Precious Time?

It’s not just the time we spend sleeping, eating, or chewing that is important. The time we spend on other things are also central to health, including downtime, sex, friendship, rest and relaxation, and laughing. We spend too much time in our cars on the freeway and too much of our valuable lives wasting time watching television.

Additional Tips For a Healthy Use of Your Time

  • Cuddle more
  • Laugh more
  • Read more
  • Listen to relaxing music more
  • Love more
  • Learn more
  • Spend less time waiting in line
  • Spend less time on the internet or on hold
  • Spend less time watching television
  • Spend less time in your car alone on the freeway

We are creatures of habit. Our biology, cycles, and needs are dependent and shaped by the influences of Earth, sun, and moon. Some would say that other planets and even stars have sway on what we do, our moods, and even our choices. We also have free will, of course, and the option to choose what we do and how we behave, and how many minutes we spend each day doing positive, healthy things.

Dr. J. E. Williams


Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

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