Making exercise a priority — no matter how busy you are — is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. But if you find that 60-minute classes or extended trips to the gym just don't fit into your schedule, don't worry. It's officially time to ditch the all-or-nothing approach to fitness — 10-minute workouts really can make a difference.
According to 2013 research from Boston University, as long as you accumulate a total of 150 minutes of exercise each week, it doesn't matter how long each of your workout sessions is. Even by squeezing in five minutes here or 10 minutes there, all those active minutes add up, along with their health-related benefits, such as smaller waistlines and lower cholesterol. And when you combine those findings with the growing body of research that indicates short, intense bouts of training can confer the same aerobic benefits as long, steady-state training sessions, you're basically getting permission from the powers that be (i.e., exercise physiologists like myself) to develop a workout schedule that works for you, even if it bucks conventional thinking.
So the next time you're short on time, but you still want to break a sweat, try this 10-minute routine I put together for you. You can try it any time, anywhere, and it's guaranteed to raise your heart rate while targeting all your major muscle groups. All you need is a timer, and if you want to make the strength-training exercises harder, you can grab a set of dumbbells too.
The workout: Perform each exercise for 45 seconds followed by a 15-second rest. Complete the five-exercise circuit twice without rest between rounds.
Nothing unusual here, just the same ol' exercise you used to do in elementary school PE class. Stand tall, your feet together, your arms at your sides. In a single motion, jump up in the air as you swing your arms out to the sides, then over your head as you simultaneously spread your legs wide. Land softly on the balls of your feet, then immediately hop back into the air as you reverse the movements and bring your arms and legs back to the starting position. Continue for the full 45 seconds.
Start in a standard pushup position (like a high plank) or a modified pushup position with your knees on the floor. Check to make sure your palms are directly under your shoulders, but slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart, and that your back is flat — your butt isn't pointing up toward the ceiling. Bend your elbows back at a 45-degree angle as you slowly lower your chest toward the floor. Just before your chest touches down, press through your palms and return to the starting position. From here, shift your weight to your left palm and lift your right hand from the ground. Squeeze your right shoulder blade in toward your spine, bend your elbow and draw your palm to your chest, really focusing on using the muscles of your back to pull your hand upward. Reverse the movement, placing your right hand back on the ground, then shift your weight to your right palm and repeat on the left side. Once you've performed this rowing movement to both sides, continue the exercise by performing another pushup, following the full sequence for the 45-second interval.
Note: To make the exercise more challenging, perform the row with a pair of dumbbells. Simply set up in your pushup position as usual, but grip a dumbbell with each hand. When you perform the row, draw a dumbbell, instead of an empty hand, to your chest.
Skaters offer a quick burst of cardio that simultaneously challenges power and agility while working your abductors and adductors (inner and outer thighs). Stand tall, your feet roughly hip-distance apart, your knees slightly bent, with your weight shifted slightly onto the balls of your feet. Hop your right foot a few feet out to the right, keeping your weight on the ball of your foot with your knee bent as you swing your left foot behind your right foot at an angle. Touch your left foot lightly to the floor (or don't touch it down at all), and immediately hop your left foot several feet to the left, landing with your knee bent and your weight on the ball of your foot as you swing your right foot behind your left foot at an angle. Continue hopping back and forth laterally for the full 45 seconds, as if you were a speedskater.
Note: If hopping is too challenging or doesn't feel comfortable, reduce the intensity and step it out instead of hopping. But as you cross one foot behind the other, bend both knees and reach your opposite hand toward your front foot. This will make it more challenging than a basic side-to-side lateral step.
To really fire up the major muscles of your lower body, you can't go wrong with a squat-lunge combo. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, your toes pointing forward. Keeping your torso upright and tall, press your hips back and bend your knees, lowering yourself into a squat. Make sure at the bottom of the squat your knees are aligned with your toes and your weight is in your heels. Press back to standing.
Once standing, shift your weight to your left leg and step your right leg backward a couple of feet. Again, with your torso straight and tall, bend both knees and lower your back knee toward the ground, keeping your weight in your front heel. Just before your knee touches down, press back to standing. Repeat on the opposite side. Once you've performed a lunge to each side, continue the exercise by performing another squat, following this sequence for the entire interval.
The last exercise in the circuit features a burst of cardio that also helps develop core strength and shoulder stability. Start in a high plank position on the ground, your palms under your shoulders, your legs extended behind you. Make sure your body forms a straight line from head to heels with your core tight. Draw one knee toward your chest and plant the ball of this foot on the ground. In a fluid motion, jump both feet up into the air and switch their positions, landing "softly" on the balls of your feet. Immediately hop both feet back into the air, again switching their positions. Continue for the full 45 seconds.
Note: If the hopping action becomes too challenging, simply step one foot forward, return to the high plank position, then alternate legs, stepping the opposite foot forward before returning it again.
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