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Exercise in Just 30 Minutes a Day

Take control of time!

Week after week, the message doesn't change. Americans are constantly being reminded they need to eat right and exercise.

There's just one problem, who's got the time?

Driving to a health club, changing into gym clothes, spending an hour working out, showering and driving back home can easily take two hours out of a day.

In between work, keeping up a household and family responsibilities, finding that much time for exercise may seem like a pipe dream.

I've got some good news. You don't have to workout an hour or more a day for better health. In the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations, an adult can improve their health with as little as "30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day..."

Try something the CDC calls the 3-2-1 plan.

3 - Complete three activities for 10 consecutive minutes at a moderately intense rate
2 - Complete two activities for 15 consecutive minutes at a moderately intense rate
1 - Complete one activity for 30 consecutive minutes at a moderately intense rate.

Here's how to fit that 30 minutes of exercise into a busy day.

Save time by bathing strategically. Instead of showering before you go to work and again after exercising in the evening, get up and workout first thing in the morning (before you shower). If you're worried about bed-head, wear a cap or a scarf.

The exercise will wake you up and the shower does double duty. You get clean after your workout and get ready to face the world. Half the shower time, half the water and you start the day with a great habit.

Mornings may not be your thing, but everybody has to eat. Pack your food and exercise over lunch.

Instead of going to a local fast food place and buying their 800 calorie lardburger, use the first part of a lunch break to sweat a little. Take a power walk and elevate your heart rate. When you're done, sit down and eat the healthy meal you've prepared. You'll be more energized for the afternoon and avoid the crash that typically comes after eating a meal high in fat and sugar. Suddenly you've fit a healthy lunch and exercise in under an hour.

The key to making progress with shorter workouts is intensity. You want to burn more calories in less time. Here's how.

For cardio workouts, map out a course that loops back to where you started and takes about 5 minutes to walk. Do your warm-up walk once around, then walk faster or jog around the second time. The third time complete the loop with the goal of beating your second time. Circle the loop three more times at a moderately intense rate. Finish with one last time around walking for a cool down. Always make sure the streets and neighborhood are safe before you begin this. As you improve your time, increase the size of the loop you're running.

When you've got a gym to workout in, keep your body challenged by using three different cardio machines and rotate every 8 minutes. For example, you might spend 8 minutes on an elliptical, then move to the treadmill and finish off riding a bike.

If you're resistance training, try doing supersets. That's a technique where you perform two different exercises in a row with almost no rest in between. For example, a chest exercise, immediately followed by an arm exercise.

If you're already in good shape and are just trying to shorten your time in the gym, try drop sets. That's where you start with a heavy set and do the reps to failure. When you reach failure, a spotter takes off just enough weight so you can do a few more reps, then when you reach failure again, the spotter removes more weights. You've finished the set when you can't do one more rep using the lightest weight.

What you need to avoid is doing the same 30-minute workout day after day. If you keep repeating a routine, over time, your body will get used to the same stresses and stop making progress.

Shorter workouts and ways to fit them in your busy schedule. There's no better time than today. Put fitness back in your daily routine.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.