Taking an hour out of your day to get to the gym is sometimes just too big of a time commitment or just sounds like too daunting of a task. We totally get it. So instead try squeezing in shorter, convenient strength training and cardio workouts throughout your day (think at home or at work), so that you can get a great workout with even the busiest of schedules. Read on for 10 short, convenient expert-recommended workouts that you can easily squeeze into your day. Try sprinkling in several of these workouts over the course of a day in place of going to the gym—or for beginners, just doing one or two is a great way to begin easing into working out.
Several Short Workouts Are As Good as a Long Workout
If you’re concerned that smaller workouts won’t have the same impact as doing one longer workout at the gym, think again. “When it comes to achieving weight loss and aerobic fitness, studies seem to suggest that exercise accumulated in several short bouts has similar effects as exercise accumulated in one continuous bout,” explains internist Dr. Andrea Ruman. “That is, exercising for three 10-minute intervals during the day versus exercising for 30 minutes all at once derives the same benefits.”
Concerning long-term health benefits of exercise, short workouts get the job done as well. “At least four clinical trials have shown that several 10-minute bursts of exercise yield essentially the same benefits in blood pressure, weight, body fat, cholesterol levels, or cardiovascular fitness as the same total amount of exercise done in a single session,” explains registered dietitian Diane Preves.
Before you shower in the morning, break a sweat with a quick cardio burst. Registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Martha McKittrick recommends jumping jacks, pushups and crunches for at least five minutes to get your heart racing and energy flowing before you start your day.
If you’d rather get in touch with your elementary school days, certified personal trainer Kimberly Garrison recommends jumping rope. “Bar none, the best cardiovascular exercise is the simple jump rope,” she explained. “The jump robe is a low impact, full body cardiovascular exercise that simply annihilates calories.” Start out with six minutes of jumping and workup from there. If you’re dealing with limited apartment space, try out the ropeless JumpSnap. More on that here: http://www.chickrx.com/articles/look-ma-no-rope
While you’re brushing your teeth, McKittrick recommends multitasking by doing toe raises. Makes sense rather than standing there for two minutes, doesn’t it? To target and strengthen the calf muscles, stand with your feet a few inches apart, push down through your toes and lift your heels. Repeat until you have finished brushing those pearly whites.
Think of how long it takes to dry your hair: that’s valuable time you could be using to get in strength training. While blowdrying can totally make you feel the burn in your arms (so alternate arms as you dry to get an even workout), try adding squats to work your legs and butt, too. Standing with your legs hip-width apart, lower your glutes toward the floor. Be sure that your knees do not come over your ankles. From the seated position lift back up to standing and repeat until your hair is dry or your legs are shaking—which ever comes first.
If you’re penciling time with your best friend or boyfriend, try opting for a fun exercise class, dance class, hike or even just a nice leisurely walk. “The key is to think of [working out] as supporting the lifestyle you want, making it part of the lifestyle you want, and not just a chore you have to do,” explains certified personal trainer Xin-min Lai. Working out with a friend is a great motivator, and if you’re already spending a part of your day with them, why not make it work double for you both?
To boost your energy for the afternoon, schedule in a brief 10-minute workout during your lunch break. If your building has stairs, try running or walking the stairs a few times, which will really get your heart pumping. If not, go for a brisk walk outside. The cardio and fresh air will help prep your mind to tackle your afternoon projects.
We must admit, when we first saw them we thought they looked ridiculous too, but that’s before we considered their benefits. Because stabilizer balls aren’t as rigid as chairs, sitting on the ball requires you to strengthen your core, improve your posture and strengthen your back. Research has already shown that sitting at a desk all day may have detrimental effects on your health (i.e., risk of Type 2 diabetes), so sitting on a stabilizer ball instead of a regular chair might not seem like too crazy of an idea after all.
If you’re having a brain freeze over a difficult project or assignment, or just killing time at home, take a few minutes and do a few chair dip reps. As certified personal trainer Katie Humphrey explains, chair dips are beneficial for building muscle tone and strengthening your arms (and are awesome considering how little equipment they require).
To do a chair dip, sit on the edge of your seat, grabbing the edges with both hands at a shoulder width apart. Lift your butt off the seat and walk your feet forward, making sure your knees don’t bend past your toes. Keep your shoulders back and chest up and slowly lower your butt toward the floor. Stop when your arms reach a 90-degree angle. Straighten and repeat.
People often forget that some of the most fun things in life are actually great workouts. Case in point: dancing. Crank up your iPod and get moving. Even if you do this in the privacy of your own home, you may still feel silly at first. But embrace it, because pretty soon you’ll be breaking a sweat and having an awesome time—not to mention pumping up your heart rate and burning calories. We highly recommend it to energize you before a night out with friends or to shake off the nerves before a first date.
Who says spending time watching TV can’t benefit you? While you’re catching up on your favorite show, do several sets of wall sits instead of slouching on the couch. “This is a great exercise for the butt, hips and thighs,” says certified personal trainer Kimberly Garrison. “Press your back up against the wall and slide down until you look like you’re sitting in a chair. Try that for 90 seconds. You’ll see what I’m talking about.”
Couch time is also a great time to fit in an upper body workout. Grab your small weights (or even cans from your pantry) and see how many bicep curls, shoulder raises and tricep kickback you can fit in during commercial breaks.
Before hitting the sheets, take a minute to plank. Planks benefit your core, arms and back, and they’re even one of the top calorie blasting yoga moves. Starting in a full push-up position, align your spine in a straight line. Support yourself with either your palms flat against the floor under your shoulders or with your forearms resting on the floor (elbows under your shoulders). Concentrate on breathing deeply and tightening your core for support. Set a timer on your phone and see how long you can hold the plank position (shoot for 30-60 seconds). Believe it or not, you’ll even likely find yourself looking forward to your nightly challenge.
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