Mike Carlson, NASM-CPT
Striving for perfection is admirable, but when it comes to working out, it can be a foolhardy quest. Too many people put off their workouts until they have the time for their ideal two-hour cardio-yoga-aquatic-weightlifting regimen. With busy schedules, weeks can go by before you can find time for the Dream Routine, and with the holidays approaching, it might not happen until Easter.
Fortunately, your body responds to exercise on an "anything is better than nothing" basis. Five minutes a day on a stationary bike is infinitely better than an hour on the couch wishing you had a 25th hour.
"The average workout length recommended by most experts is a minimum of 20-30 minutes," says Myatt Murphy, CSCS, author of "The Body You Want in the Time You Have" (Rodale, 2006.) "But not bothering to work out because you only have half as much time to exercise is like not bothering to save for something you really want because you only have half as much money to spare."
When it comes to your fitness bank account, every penny counts. Doing bicep curls with grocery bags on the way to the car or taking the stairs instead of the elevator increases your fat-burning muscle-building balance throughout the day. And if you can deposit a solid 15 minutes of devoted exercise, you can accrue some serious interest.
"Anything you can do to elevate your metabolism, burn calories and work your muscles - even if it's only for 15 minutes a day can have a huge impact on your overall appearance and health - if you're smart enough to use those minutes wisely," says Murphy.
Here are some tips to keep up your exercise habit and stave off the holiday damage through the next several weeks:
Tip 1: Warm up "en route" to the machine. By pacing while on the phone, or doing some light squats putting away the laundry, you can get the blood flowing before you start the workout. That means when you jump on the bike or elliptical trainer you can put in 15 strong, focused minutes.
Tip 2: Stick with interval training. A mountain of research has shown that short bursts of high-intensity exercise, interspersed with longer periods of low-intensity exercise, burns more calories than long slow bouts of cardio. Pedal or stride rigorously for 30 seconds, then immediately lower the speed for 60-90 seconds. Repeat this cycle for the length of your workout.
Tip 3: Break it up. Two ten-minute sessions a day is just as good as one 20-minute workout. You can even break your workout into thirds.