When the pace of life is fast, it’s hard to make time for yourself, let alone prioritise your fitness goals.
The irony is, many of the strategies we use when life is busy don’t help our fitness, either: takeaway food, late nights catching up on work emails and skimping on sleep, fresh air and mental relaxation.
This makes it all the more important to get a good fitness routine going, no matter how busy your lifestyle.
In this article, we’ll give you some tips and tricks to improve your fitness in short bursts and stick to a routine in between your life commitments. And you’ll find that even investing a small amount of time can make a big difference to your physical and mental wellbeing.
Can you really get fit with short routines?
You may be familiar with the advice that to keep fit, you should do 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise at least five days a week. But if you’re working in a demanding role, have a young family or simply have a busy lifestyle, then finding half an hour a day can be challenging.
But there’s evidence that says that even shorter sessions of 10 to 15 minutes can be beneficial.
In a study published in Journal of the American College of Nutrition (1), researchers compared how effective three 10-minute or two 15-minute exercise sessions were versus just one 30-minute session. The participants in the study exercised, on average, four days a week and also followed a calorie-controlled diet.
After three months, participants in all the groups had lost comparable amounts of body fat and weight and had better aerobic function. Along with other studies, this shows that short exercise sessions carried out throughout the day are just as effective as single, longer ones.
Keeping your exercise sessions short and sweet is also an excellent approach if you’re the type of person who gets bored easily. Shorter sessions will hold your interest and help you maintain a fitness regime in the long term.
You may also find that it’s natural to push yourself harder when exercising for shorter periods of time. Experts believe that the intensity of your exercise is more relevant than the length of your session, so you’ll be reaping more benefits than you realised.
Give me some activities suited to fitness in a hurry
There are lots of activities you can try that will elevate your fitness in short, sharp bursts and can easily be incorporated into your lifestyle.
Yoga is the perfect activity if you only have 10 minutes to spare. Beginners can start with some easy poses like cat alternated with cow, child’s pose and mountain pose. Each of these will allow your body to stretch, help regulate your breathing and promote a feeling of wellbeing. If you’re more advanced, then a 10-minute sequence including some more demanding poses will energise you at the start of the day.
Weightlifting can be effective in short sets, and you can put together a quick and easy fitness routine that doesn’t require much space or equipment. Simply grab your dumbbells and practise a sequence of single arm lifts, bicep curls and kickbacks (where you lift the dumbbell in a backwards motion while resting the opposite hand and knee on a bench). You can squeeze this workout into your morning or end-of-day routine.
Have you heard about HIIT training? HIIT stands for “high intensity interval training” with the emphasis on the effort put into the workout rather than the amount of time it takes. This makes it perfect for anyone looking to upscale their fitness with little time to spare. You can perform a HIIT workout on an exercise bike at home by alternating intense bursts of pedalling with slightly longer episodes of more relaxed effort.
Walking counts as exercise as well as being beneficial for your emotional wellbeing. It’s also one of the easiest ways to keep fit, and it can easily be included in your daily routine. A brisk walk of at least 10 minutes will contribute to your fitness levels, reduce blood pressure and increase your stamina. Getting a dose of fresh air will also work wonders for your wellbeing. Just make sure you are protected against the elements with a cap or beanie if the weather is on the chilly side and a men’s or women’s jumper to protect you against the elements.
More get fit quick hacks for the time poor
The secret to getting fit when you’re challenged for time is to think out of the box, making any task multi-functional by adding in some exercise. Grab any opportunity to squeeze in some exercise as you go about your everyday tasks, and you’ll soon be reaping the benefits. Here’s how:
Make use of dead time in the kitchen while waiting for dinner to cook by doing standing push-ups against the counter.
Keep a set of dumbbells in the kitchen so you can squeeze in a set of reps while keeping an eye on the dinner.
If you’ve got kids, join them for a game of tag or a kick around with a ball whenever you can.
When you’re relaxing in front of the television, get up and do jumping jacks or run on the spot when the adverts come on.
Or you can even perform sitting exercises like leg raises while you’re in front of the TV screen.
Have a yoga mat permanently stationed by your bed. That way, you will be inspired to start and end your day with a quick and easy yoga routine.
Instead of driving to the office, walk, cycle or take public transport, getting off one stop early and walking the rest of the way.
Make a habit of taking the stairs instead of the lift.
Did you know that standing instead of sitting burns more calories? So get into a routine of standing up when you take a phone call or for five to ten minutes every hour.
You can also conduct meetings while walking instead of sitting around a table.
Exercise on your lunch break. It can be as simple as going up and down the stairs several times or taking a walk round the block to freshen you up, mind and body, for the afternoon session.
When you’re out and about
If you take your kids to activities where you would normally sit and wait for them, go for a power walk instead to fill the time.
The same goes for a trip to the park — why should it be all about the kids? Seek out parks with outdoor gyms and get yourself fit while they play.
Turn date night into an excuse to get fit. Instead of going out for a calorie-loaded dinner, run together, go dancing or take a long walk in a scenic setting — whatever you enjoy as a couple.
Get into the habit of using a pedometer every day to log your steps – you should be aiming for 10,000 a day. This will incentivise you to walk more and get fitter quicker!
Making exercise enjoyable
No matter what your level of fitness, you can always find a “quick win” way to elevate it. Not only are our suggestions easy to follow, but they are also enjoyable and will soon make exercise something you look forward to!
Remember that to get the maximum out of our exercise hacks, you will need to combine them with a healthy diet. Swap sugary or salty snacks for fresh fruit, and white bread for wholegrain. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Getting fit shouldn’t be a chore but something that can be achieved by anyone with just a little effort. So what are you waiting for? Why not make today the start of a whole new fitness regime by picking out some of our top tips for a quick fitness fix?
(1) Schmidt W, Biwer C, Kalscheuer L. ‘Effects of long versus short bout exercise on fitness and weight loss in overweight females,’ Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2001 Oct;20(5):494-501.