Mark Ewell was at the St. Louis airport waiting for a flight and lamenting that he hadn’t had time to work out that day. So he paid a shoeshine guy $10 to watch his bag, laced up his running shoes and spent 15 minutes running through the concourse.

Mr. Ewell, a realtor in Colorado Springs, Colo., often does a boot camp-style exercise video or runs for an hour or more. But when he’s short on time, he’ll do 50 push-ups or run up the stairs 10 times in the model home where he works. The short bursts allow him to complete a bit of physical activity every day.

“What it’s about is eliminating excuses,” he says.

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People are embracing microworkouts to squeeze in a bit of movement, break up the workday or even substitute for much longer exercise sessions. The idea is to steal a few minutes for exercise rather than delaying it until you have time for an hour-long cycling class or weightlifting session at the gym.

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