You don't have to give up exercising just because your schedule is jam-packed. When you only have a few minutes — and no equipment — try these four exercises.
You've got a million things to do today, so your favorite workout might be on the chopping block — or is it? Even if you only have a few minutes, performing one or two exercises can be beneficial. These "workout nibbles" can help you break up lengthy periods of sitting, increase your energy, and potentially enhance your long-term health. More movement throughout the day is often favorable.
Most adults will benefit from incorporating any opportunity for exercise into their daily routines, whether it's sprinting up a flight of stairs for 30 seconds, carrying their shopping bags instead of using a cart, or simply walking at a faster speed. It all adds up to a better overall fitness level, as well as improved heart and lung function.
The effect of "exercise nibbles," or short-duration, high-intensity exercises, was investigated in a 2019 study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. They invited a group of young adults (who all reported getting less than one hour of physical activity each week at the start of the trial) to quickly climb a flight of steps three times per day, three days a week for six weeks. They discovered that even that little bit of exercise enhanced cardiorespiratory fitness.
The important lesson is that even if you don't have 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or more to devote to a workout, it's still worthwhile to work up a sweat. But what kind of activity should you undertake to get the most out of your "exercise snack" time?
Here are four things to try when your tight on time.
1. Around-the-World Lunges
Movement is important, especially if you've been sitting a lot lately, but it's also important to focus on actions that combat that physical stagnation.
Sitting causes muscles around the hips and lower back to shorten, while also causing other muscles to overwork and become irritated.
The "lunge matrix" (also known as "around-the-world lunges") enters the picture.
These multidirectional lunges extend and enhance range of motion in the hip, lower back, and leg muscles that are dormant while sitting.
How to Go About It
- Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart is a good starting point.
- With your left foot, take a big stride forward. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed between both legs by bending both knees to about 90 degrees. The front knee of your front leg should be precisely over your ankle (and not extended past it). The front lunge is what you're doing. Return your left foot to the center.
- Step out to the left side with your left foot and bend your left knee (kneecap facing forward). Maintain a straight right leg extension. This is how you do a side lunge. Return your left foot to the center.
- Step your left foot behind you, bringing your right leg in front of you. This is your back lunge. Return to the starting position with the left leg.
- Rep the process with the right leg in the opposite direction: right foot steps back into a rear lunge, then out to a right side lunge, and then forward to a right front lunge.
You have time to do some bodyweight squats while waiting for your coffee to complete brewing, brushing your teeth, or even reading your email.
The squat is a basic compound activity that is used by trainers all around the world. That's not just because it's good for improving lower-body strength — though it can help with that — but also because it provides you more mobility in everyday life.
You are doing a squat when you go to sit down or stand up. Inside and beyond the gym, the squat is essential for functional mobility.
How to Go About It
- Begin by standing with your feet about hip-width apart.
- Begin by squeezing your hips back as if you were ready to sit in a chair (increasingly shifting pressure onto your heels and keeping them flat on the floor), dropping as much as you can.
- Maintain a straight back and shoulders by pulling them back.
- Knees should be in line with toes.
- To get back up, press onto your feet and straighten your legs. (You should be able to feel the gluteus maximus and other leg muscles contract.)
Try holding a plank stance for five minutes if you think five minutes isn't long enough to feel the benefits of exercise.
Planks, which are simply holding the position at the top of a pushup, are another foundational exercise that may be a great workout for your shoulders, core muscles, and willpower. They're also versatile, since you can use them to perform burpees, mountain climbers, side planks, plank jacks, and more.
The plank stance is also beneficial to the back. It activates the core stabilizing muscles, which helps to maintain the spine.
How to Go About It
- Begin in the top position of a push-up, with your shoulders above your wrists.
- Push back through your heels with your leg muscles engaged, while simultaneously engaging your core muscles.
- Maintain the position by keeping your shoulders from collapsing inward and your back from sagging. You want to walk in a straight path as much as possible.
4. Bear Crawls
One of the finest ways to break up your routine is to try something new. Drop to the ground. Bear crawls, for example, appeal into your childhood drive to play.
Even when exercising, adults have a tendency to move in the same plane of motion. When you observe youngsters play, you'll see that they're crouching, crawling, twisting, and sprinting all over the place. Our bodies thrive on variety.
Moving in new ways, like trying new things in general, stimulates the brain as well as the body. Get a little wild if you only have a few minutes and want to enhance that mind-body connection.
How to Go About It
- Begin in a tabletop posture on your hands and knees, with your shoulders over your wrists and your knees in line with your hips.
- Raise your knees so they're slightly over the floor and press into your hands.
- Keep the rest of the body low to the floor and in the same tabletop position by moving one hand and the opposite foot forward an equal distance (approximately 12 to 16 inches).
- Repeat the movement, but this time move the opposite hand and foot forward.
- To maintain your neck in alignment with your spine, keep your back flat and look down at the floor.
- To "crawl" forward, keep alternating sides; you may even crawl backward by reversing the process.