Are the holidays leaving you with no time to hit the gym? A quick workout—done right—can still make you healthier, happier, and fitter

By Mirel Ketchiff
Updated: November 20, 2014
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We love working out, but finding an hour to spend at the gym-and the motivation to do so-is a struggle this time of the year. And when you're used to 60-minute body-pump classes or six-mile long runs, settling for quick workouts, like runs around the block or five minutes of burpees, can feel discouraging-or even pointless. But brief exercises really are worth it-so long as you spend your time wisely (with workouts like this 6-Minute Workout for a Stronger Core!). In fact, a whole slew of new research shows that even super-short or less-intense periods of physical activity offer some pretty significant health benefits. Here are the three top reasons to make every minute count.

Running for 7 Minutes a Day Protects the Heart

It's no secret that running is good for your cardiovascular system. Still, it's hard to believe that the seven-minute jog you manage to fit in while the pies cool is good for anything more than a mild mood boost and calorie burn. But it's true, say researchers in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Compared to those who never run, people who run for just 51 minutes a week, or just seven minutes a day, are 45 percent less likely to die because of heart disease. Build the habit: Persistent runners-those who've been running regularly for roughly six years-reaped the greatest benefit.

Biking for 10 Minutes Boosts Brainpower

Most fitness lovers can relate: One of the main reasons we try to find time to pull on our sneakers even when we're too busy to for a full-fledged workout is because we know a good sweat is the easiest way to burn off some stress. And sure enough, volunteers in a Japanese study were significantly happier after just 10 minutes on a stationary exercise bicycle. The brief biking workout also improved the participants' reaction time and executive function, a set of skills related to memory, organization, and planning. (In addition to those, these 13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise are sure to inspire you to squeeze in quick workouts throughout the holiday season!).

Shorter, Intense Bursts of Activity Still Build Fitness

It's not always lack of time that cuts your gym sessions short. When you're trying to up the intensity of your workouts (like adding sprints to your runs), you may find yourself tiring out more quickly, turning your usual 45 minutes of training into 30. Don't stress too much. Study after study has shown that shorter sessions of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or Tabata workouts can be as effective at building fitness as traditional training-if not more so. But to get the benefits, you've got to really push yourself during the intervals, and keep them consistent. (If you're curious, try one of these 10 New Fat-Blasting Tabata Workouts.)

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