“I just don’t have time to exercise.” Sound familiar? This is the excuse for thousands of Americans, who are too busy with career, family, and life to spend an hour or two a day at the gym. No time to exercise? This article will show you how to get fit in just 20 minutes daily.
The great news is you don’t need an hour at the gym to reap the benefits of exercise! In fact, just 20 minutes a day can do wonders for your physical and mental health. You don’t even have to hit the gym; here, we’ll show you ways to incorporate exercise into your daily life, at home or the office. These exercises can be done during your lunch break or even early in the morning before you head off to work.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Exercise, even as little as 20 minutes a day, raises serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin is one of the key chemicals in fighting depression, and it gives us that workout “high.” Studies have shown exercise can be as effective as leading antidepressants in treating depression.
For stressed-out people, the simple act of moving can help, too. In fact, going for a short run or walking around the block is a great way to reduce stress levels and boost health. As stress is a factor in many health problems, such as high blood pressure and lowered immune systems, it is well worth investing 20 minutes of your day in lowering its effect on your body and mind.
Boost Your Immune System
Working out even a little each day has wonderful effects on your immune system. In fact, working out too intensively can reduce your immune system, so aiming for 20 minutes daily is perfect for maintaining balance. Moderate exercise is believed to raise the levels of macrophages in the blood temporarily. These tiny cells are a vital part of the immune system, focusing specifically on attacking harmful bacteria, and are useful in preventing infections. Exercise can also help stop viruses, such as the cold or flu virus, from taking hold in a healthy body.
Reduce Your Risk of Disease
If you suffer from high blood pressure, your doctor will most likely recommend exercise as a way to lower it. Starting now means keeping your pressure down and staying healthier in the long term. Inactivity can be a major factor in blood pressure-related health problems, such as heart disease and aneurysms.
According to the American Heart Association, exercising increases the function of your heart and decreases the amount of oxygen needed during physical activity. In layman’s terms, this means you won’t huff and puff as much the next time you find yourself climbing a hill in San Francisco!
Sedentary people have the highest risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, but their risk drops off drastically as soon as they become active. Since being active doesn’t necessarily mean climbing a volcano or running in a triathlon, there is no excuse for not lowering your risk for everything from heart disease to diabetes to hypertension.
By exercising, you also raise your metabolism rate. A higher metabolism means you will tend to burn more calories, and by working out in combination with sensible eating, you can lose weight. Not bad for just 20 minutes of your time!
Exercise in the Office
If you find yourself stuck at work most of the day, you might be tempted to forget about exercise. That would be a mistake since you can easily incorporate mini-workouts into your work day and enjoy a large number of benefits.
Not all 20 minutes have to be done at once. Take five minutes at each coffee break and ten minutes during your lunch break to get in some exercise. Here are a few exercises to get you started:
An exercise band can be of great use in the office environment. Stand on one loop with both feet and hold the other end in one hand, raising your arm slowly to shoulder height and lowering it again.
You can also do bicep curls by hooking one end around a table leg and grasping the other end firmly in your hand. Curl your arm up, keeping the elbow tucked close to your body until your fist is level with your shoulder. Repeat with both arms.
Hit the Street
Take ten minutes during your lunch break to walk briskly around the block a couple of times. This gets your heart rate up and is a good way to breathe in some fresh air, too. See if you can’t recruit a few of your coworkers to go with you and turn it into an office affair. Having others walking with you means it is harder to “forget” when you just don’t feel like it.
Although this shouldn’t be your full routine, doing some deep knee bends, toe touching, and other stretches can be beneficial, especially if you spend most of your time sitting in one spot. Do five minutes of stretches during your coffee break and enjoy feeling more alert and less stiff.
Exercise at Home
You will probably feel far more comfortable working out in your own home, with no curious co-workers watching you and more space. You can also add exercise machines if you are so inclined, although they are not necessary to get the full benefits of working out.
Stand with your feet together, hands at your sides. Now, jump and land with your feet a little further than hip-width apart, hands parallel to the ground. Another jump to return to the starting position and you’re ready to repeat. This standard exercise is excellent for getting the blood pumping fast.
Jumping rope for even 5 minutes is a great way to get moving! You might want to start with this strenuous exercise, and then move on to other moves, like crunches, etc. Or, you can split your workout time throughout the day and do 5 minutes four times a day.
For those of you who are just not fans of traditional workouts, why not try a fun exercise video? Go for a belly dancing workout, Tae Bo, or a dance video. Anyone of these will get your heart pumping and is fun at the same time. Switch them up to keep from getting bored, and you’ll be more likely to continue your exercise routine longer.
Doing a ten-minute abs session will not only help your stomach look great again, but it will also boost your immune system and give you all the benefits of regular exercise. It isn’t a good idea to work the same muscle group intensively every day, so try alternating with abs exercises one day and aerobics the next.
Exercise Out and About
There are times when you just want or need to get out of the house. You might find this is your biggest motivation to get moving, in fact. Heading to the park or running errands is the perfect opportunity to get some exercise, so make sure you take advantage of it.
Take a walk around the block with your family in the evening after dinner to get in your 20 minutes of exercise. Although walking leisurely is still good for you, try picking up the pace and getting your heart rate up. This will be even easier if you have small children who like to run ahead or an energetic dog. Just keep up with them to get your blood pumping!
Hit the Playground
If you have children, why not take them to the park? Instead of sitting passively on a bench, get in on the action and run around the park with them, play tag, scramble over the obstacles, and have some fun! You’ll get in your workout, and the kids will absolutely love it! No kids of your own? Borrow some!
Park the Car
When you have plenty of errands to run, park your car in one place and walk everywhere. You should easily get in your 20 minutes by hiking from the bank to the hairdresser to the grocery store! Hauling all the groceries back to the car gives you an upper body workout.
Remember there is no reason you can’t use a combination of techniques. For example, there is nothing wrong with doing ten minutes of an exercise video in the morning, walking around the block during your lunch break, and hiking to and from the grocery store after work. Do what works for you, and you’ll find it is easier to stick with exercising.
In all, typically 50% of people who begin an exercise program don’t keep it up after six months! If you want to reap the health benefits, it is important you continue to exercise and not give up. After all, it’s just 20 minutes a day, so you really have no excuse.