Americans have less free time than ever between long working hours and other obligations. Unfortunately, exercise time is often the first thing to go when life gets busy. We all have experienced the urge to hit the snooze button or to go straight home rather than heading to the gym. Even sticking to a routine in the comfort of a home gym can be a challenge. To receive the most benefit for your physical health, squeeze in exercises whenever you have a few minutes to kill.
Daily Exercise Recommendations
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. Moderate intensity exercise includes brisk walking, jogging, heavy gardening, dancing or cycling at an easy pace. At this level of physical activity, you should start sweating and feel your heart beating faster. However, you should still be able to maintain a conversation during moderate intensity activity.
Those who prefer vigorous intensity workouts should aim for 20 to 60 minutes, at least three days per week. Time spent cycling, running, swimming, or doing step aerobics counts toward this goal. Weight training is also important for physical fitness and should be performed two days per week.
For many of us, 150 minutes seems like a daunting fitness goal. To determine how to get the most benefit from exercise, scientists have compared the effects of exercising for short intervals versus longer sessions. Surprisingly, there is no difference between three sessions of 10 minutes each versus one longer 30-minute session. That means that any time you have 10 spare minutes during the day, you can put it to good use by engaging in short workouts to burn fat.
Advantages of Short Workouts
Getting 150 minutes of physical activity per week seems less scary when you can break it into smaller chunks. There are numerous advantages to short workouts, including:
- Short workouts are convenient. Perhaps the biggest draw, particularly for beginners, is that short workouts are a convenient way to fit in exercise time. In a 15-minute break from work, it is possible to get the exercise you need to stay healthy.
- Short workouts burn fat. When scientists began studying shorter exercise sessions, they were surprised to find how effective these workouts can be. In particular, high-intensity interval training stimulates the body to burn excess fat. This fat burning continues even after the workout has ended, meaning that people who do short workouts lose weight faster. This is why elite athletes have adopted high intensity interval training, incorporating it into their routines at least once per week. Short workouts allow amateur or professional athletes to break through a plateau and make dramatic gains.
- It’s easy to do short workouts at home. Nothing beats the convenience of working out at home. Even if you don’t have access to sophisticated equipment, a short workout at home is entirely achievable with basic equipment or even household objects.
- Short workouts boost muscle strength. Even 10 to 15 minutes of exercise can lead to significant changes to muscle mass. Scientists who study muscle cells have found that muscles change after a short, but high intensity workout.
- Short workouts are fun! Spending an hour on the treadmill may feel like more of a “real” workout, but it is not the only way to benefit your physical health. Nothing beats the satisfaction of finishing a 10-minute workout during a break from other life obligations.
Short Exercises Throughout the Day
Once you have resolved to grab some exercise whenever you have a few spare minutes, you will be surprised at the number of opportunities that present themselves. Whether you are at home, at work, or on the go, consider these short workouts to burn fat:
- Plyometric exercises. Plyometrics involve short, explosive motions that can powerfully build muscle mass and improve power. Begin with a plie squat jump. With feet shoulder width apart, lower into a squat before explosively jumping into the air. Repeat for 45 seconds. Then perform lateral lunges by jumping from side-to-side with one knee bent and the other leg stretched out. Add another 45 seconds of high knees before launching into 45 seconds of burpees (from push up position, push upward to plant feet, jump with hands stretched out, and drop back to push up position). Repeat the sequence twice.
- Tabata interval. A Tabata interval is a specific form of high intensity interval training that can be done with literally any type of aerobic exercise: cycling, jogging in place or running up and down stairs. This workout takes just 4 minutes, but it powerfully boosts cardiovascular health. Perform your chosen exercise for 20 seconds at maximum intensity, followed by 10 seconds at 20% to 30% of your maximum intensity. Repeat seven times for 4-minute short workouts to get toned.
- Transform your office space. If you simply cannot get away from your desk during the day, bring the workout to your office. A treadmill desk allows you to keep your heart pumping throughout the day, resulting in long-lasting aerobic benefits.
- Perform desk exercises. Another great way to get fit is to do exercises from the comfort of your office. Try sitting with arms on your chair armrests. Then raise yourself 2 to 3 inches from your seat, engaging your leg, and abdominal muscles. Hold for 20 seconds, rest, and repeat. Add a 45-second plank (increasing to 60 or 90 seconds as you get stronger) to work your arms and abs.
- If you get time to head outdoors, turn your daily walk into a tougher workout. Jog for 20 seconds with high knees, do 20 jumping jacks, and repeat 3 times. Then find a nearby bench to do 15 triceps dips followed by 15 push-ups. Repeat 3 times. End your workout with long, deep lunging steps for 45 seconds, followed by a 15 second rest. Repeat 3 times before heading home or back to your office.
There is no perfect time to exercise, so make the most of the moments you get by squeezing in short workouts to build mass and lose weight.