Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Can 10-minute exercise sessions pay off?

Exercising for 30 minutes a day, most days of the week, is pretty universally recommended as necessary for good health.  But what if you absolutely can’t find 30 straight minutes to work out? What if your day is booked, morning to night, with work and family responsibilities?

Take a 10-minute walk in the morning, another 10-minute walk at lunchtime, and another in the evening, experts recommend. It truly pays off.

“You can break up your workout into three 10-minute sessions of aerobic exercise and get the same benefit as one 30-minute session,” the Mayo Clinic says on its website.

A story  in The New York Times this week elaborated on the power of incremental workouts. It reported on the latest research — from the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center at Arizona State University — that examined the effect of incremental exercise on blood pressure. People in the study walked briskly for 10 minutes at three different times each day (basically, morning, noon and night). On a separate day, they took a brisk 30-minute walk, the Times reported.

“As it turned out, exercise was helpful in controlling blood pressure, but breaking up the workout into three short sessions was significantly more effective than the single half-hour session,” said The New York  Times story. You can read the full story, “The 10-Minute Workout, Times Three,” here.

The research is significant because high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, and lots of people have high blood pressure. It’s also significant because lack of time is a common excuse for not exercising.

And, lots of fitness coaches say breaking up a health goal — such as exercising for 30 minutes a day — into small chunks makes it much less daunting. Thirty minutes might seem like a lot to take on. Ten minutes at a time, not so much.

And if you don’t have the time or motivation to fit in three 10-minute sessions of exercise, don’t discount the importance of at least going out for one short walk a day. One walk might inspire you to take another, and even if it doesn’t, you’ll reap some benefits.

From a story in Prevention magazine: “A short stroll can invigorate the rest of your day, suggests research presented to the American Heart Association. Women who walked briskly for 70 minutes a week (or 10 a day) reported 18% more energy than their sedentary peers after 6 months. They also felt more clearheaded and confident, had fewer aches, and hoisted groceries and climbed stairs more easily.”

If you’re aiming to get into marathon shape, a 10-minute walk won’t cut it. But if you’re aiming to begin the shift from sedentary to active, it’s a good place to start.

For other 10-minute exercise ideas, check out these offerings from TV’s Dr. Oz: And sign up for the free Healthy Life Virginia newsletter that The Free Lance-Star emails out each weekday morning. Every edition features an “exercise of the day” that you can try from the comfort of your home. You can sign up for the newsletter here.