Less is more: five ways to exercise effectively in just 30 minutes or less

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One of the most common mistakes we see people making with fitness is thinking they need an hour or more to exercise effectively. In this week’s blog, I want to introduce you to five ways you can exercise effectively without spending more than 30 minutes on a session – sometimes it could be as little as 15-20 minutes.

This advice is for anyone who is time-crunched, or perhaps doesn’t love their exercise sessions but knows they should be doing it. In effect, what I’m suggesting here is the minimal effective dose; in other words, how can you get the results you want but investing the minimal amount of time and effort? The reality is that not everyone loves fitness, so how can we make it as tenable as possible so you’re motivated to carry on?

Here are the five things you need to know:

Tabata or HIIT sessions

Tabata is high intensity type of interval workout based on 4 minutes in total – 20 seconds of high intensity exercise and 10 seconds rest. The idea is that you work very hard for 20 seconds and recover, except that the recovery periods feel less and less as the time goes on! With each tabata only last 4 minutes, you could do 3 of these in a workout with great effects.

PRO TIP: warm up by jogging, doing star jumps or running on the spot. Follow with 3 tabata sequences – squats, burpees and running squats – and then cool down with stretching (30 seconds per muscle group) then a 5-minute sitting session breathing deeply to restore the nervous system.

Interval sessions

If you already have a running or jogging routine, this will be easy to add in. If you don’t, this is a great way to maximise the efficiency of your exercise session and make good progress in terms of cardiovascular fitness and speed. After warming up for at least a mile, identify a tree, lamp post or similar that is approximately 100m away (start at less if you’re a beginner). Run as fast as you can towards that marker, then walk back. Repeat 10 x and then cool down with a slow lap.

PRO TIP: Try this if for looking for calorie and fat burn. Intervals increase your PEMR – Post Exercise Metabolic Rate – which means you burn more calories post-exercise for longer than you would with a workout in a reduced heart rate zone.

Lift something heavy

Everyone should be combining cardiovascular or aerobic exercise with strength work, but especially if you’re over 40 and even more so if you’re a post-menopausal woman. Resistance training like weight lifting, bodyweight training and kettlebells for example, helps promote bone health. This is particularly important for post-menopausal women because they produce less oestrogen, which affects bone density. But whatever your age, lift something heavy every day if you can, whether that’s shopping bags, a kettlebell, a set of dumbbells or pressing your own bodyweight.

PRO TIP: You don’t need to go to the gym for this – find something in the house or even use a small child! As long as you’re providing resistance to the muscles by lifting heavy, you’ll get the benefits of increased strength, bone health and improved muscle mass.

Be present and focused

If you only have a short amount of time to workout, make the most of it. Focus on what you’re going to do and why – what’s your intent? By just being present for the exercise you’re doing, you can get more from it. Focus on the muscles you’re working, and maintain that focus for the duration of the exercise. It’s much better to be fully engaged for a short period of time than half-engaged but you’ve ticked the box of ‘one-hour workout done’.

PRO TIP: This applies to those times when you’re not feeling it too – rather than cancel, cut down the workout but be fully present. You’ll still get a lot of value from it but in half the time.

Intersections

Maximise the time you’re spending on exercise by combining it with something else you love. For example, I now walk a lot more than I used to because I love listening to podcasts. I’ve intersected listening to great content with exercise by buying a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for when I’m walking. If you struggle to get into your workouts, try intersecting exercise with something else – maybe it’s finding a training buddy who you don’t get to see much, or listening to music.

PRO TIP: Think about how you can make your sessions more enjoyable by playing with intersections, but don’t neglect to be present and focused on the ‘why’ of what you’re doing.

If you’re reading this, you’re are probably in a reasonably senior position, running your own business or have a busy life running the home and juggling other responsibilities. Either way, you’re busy. The convergent pressures of work and family life have probably meant that the time you did have to spend on health and fitness has disappeared. Why not talk to us and see how we can help.

If you’d like help understanding what your Health IQ is click here to take our test.

Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit www.bodyshotperformance.com or email info@bodyshotperformance.com to register your interest in our services and connect with us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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