Long work hours and short attention spans are driving more people to take exercise in smaller, meatier doses.
Instead of demanding clients pound the treadmill for an hour at a time, some fitness experts have created short, swift workouts for the busy and the bored.
"People just don't have as much time anymore," said fitness expert and trainer Amy Bento. "More people are trying to survive the economy with multiple jobs."
The American Council on Exercise has listed shorter, more intense workouts among the top exercise trends for 2010, as consumers approach fitness with time and money in mind.
Taking aim at the time-challenged and the easily bored alike are DVDs offering fitness in 10-minute morsels.
Bento's "10 Minute Solution: 5 Day Get Fit Mix" delivers five 10-minute bursts of cardiovascular, resistance training and stretching through a mix of kickboxing, aerobics, light weights and yoga.
"We tried to put together a mix of activities that are necessary for a well-rounded fitness program in a user-friendly format," said Bento. "You can do whatever fits your needs."
Is 10 minutes a day enough
Of course fitness takes more than 10 minutes. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association say at least 30 minutes of exercise five to six days a week is required for fitness, and one hour five to six days a week for weight loss.
"You need to string together the workouts," Bento said. "Say, kickboxing for 10 minutes, and then yoga for 10 for stretching, or abs. We break it up to keep people interested. Also, if you only have 10 minutes in the morning, you can come back at night and do another 20," she said.
To date there are 25 "10 Minute Solution" DVDs, with workouts ranging from Latin Dance Mix to Boot Camp to Pilates.
Bento, who has been teaching fitness for more than 20 years, has done four of them.
"Any fitness level can do any of these DVDs," she said. "If you're a beginner you can build your stamina to go through each workout. And it's only 10 minutes."
But Dr. Philip S. Clifford, an expert with ACSM, questions whether the 10-minute concept is demanding enough.
"Exercising in short spurts may be an effective way for some people to fit exercise into their busy schedules," said Clifford, a professor of anesthesiology and physiology with the Medical College of Wisconsin.
"My concern is that it seems easier to get busy and skip a 10-minute segment or two," Clifford explained. "There is no way that 10 minutes of aerobic exercise is adequate for maintaining cardiovascular fitness or aiding in weight loss."
He thinks exercise by DVD has its limitations.
"The intensity of exercise may vary dramatically from person to person, even using the same video," he said.
Clifford said while it doesn't matter whether you work out in a single session or several short ones, the latter might be more difficult to maintain.
"Although I have no published data to support this statement, I would contend that an individual is more likely to maintain a regular workout routine if a single workout period is scheduled into their day."
But of course no workout is effective if you don't do it.
"Fitness should be fun or you're not going to do it," said Bento. "Variety is key, the spice of life. A cliche but it's true." - (Dorene Internicola/Reuters Health, February 2010)