Best Fitness Workouts -- When You Don't Have Much Time


The best fitness workouts don’t necessarily require a lot of time. How much time you spend on a single workout matters less than working out on a regular basis over time. No matter the type of workout you choose, the key to reaping the benefits is committing to working out at least three times a week.

How hard are you willing and able to go?


You’re probably reading this article because you, like many people, don’t have the time to commute to a gym, spend time in a class, or go out for a run that lasts up to an hour. Maybe time has been the biggest factor preventing you from exercising at all, but you want to get fitter and healthier.

If you’re a beginner, do what you can. Remember that everyone has to start somewhere. Exercising for any amount of time is better than doing nothing at all.

The effectiveness of these workouts is based upon by how hard you are willing and able to go within a limited duration of time.



What are the Best Fitness Workouts?

The best workouts for optimal fitness and healthy aging include cardio training and resistance training. Exercise and sports scientists increasingly agree that shorter, intense exercise sessions can provide the same results as longer, sustained workouts.

Although things like walking upstairs in lieu of the elevator, or parking farther from an entrance, give an exercise boost to your day, if your goal is better muscle tone, a stronger upper body, and greater aerobic fitness, you need to up your game considerably.

Exertion demands that the body adapt by getting stronger in every way. A sedentary lifestyle causes the body to adapt also – it begins to grow weaker in every way, and the risk of otherwise avoidable illnesses and premature death significantly increases.

These workouts can be done within 15 to 30 minutes. Unless you are an elite athlete, anything more than that is a waste of time.



Strength Training

Bar none, strength training is the most efficient exercise for anyone with limited time. Whether you are talking aerobics, balance, endurance or flexibility, strength training is the best fitness workout that enables you to meet every component of fitness.

If commuting to and from a gym to use weight-training equipment is taking a chunk out of your day and your pocket, you don’t have to eliminate strength training -- one of the best fitness workouts ever.

You are no longer bound to a particular location to reap the benefits of this form of exercise. Resistance bands, weighted vests, and your own body weight are great alternatives for building strength.

If commuting isn’t an issue, or you simply enjoy the get-away, social time, or the energizing effect of working out with other people, then you can reduce your time spent at the gym by incorporating strength training into your fitness program. The benefits of strength training are numerous.



Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise can be classified as either steady-state or HIIT. Steady-state training involves longer stretches of time of more than 20 minutes, whereas HIIT can be completed in as little as 10 minutes. Both of these forms of aerobic exercise provide great health and fitness benefits.

Whether you love running, jogging, swimming, or cycling for aerobic fitness training, there is now a growing body of evidence that high-intensity-interval training (HIIT) is probably the best aerobic fitness workout when time is a factor.

HIIT consists of intervals, which is alternating between short and intense activity, with brief rest periods in between. Three to five intervals is all that is required to experience the benefits this powerful form of exercise offers.

There are as many suggestions about the length of time to sustain the intense portion of an interval as there are articles on the subject. The truth is that there really is no magic number as to how many minutes or seconds the higher intensity must be sustained.

Beginners may want to start with 60% of their ability for one minute, and gradually increase the intensity while decreasing the time. As your fitness increases, you may eventually sustain 90% to 100% intensity for 15-20 seconds. The point is to do what you can with active breaks in between. Mix it up and listen to your body. 



Combined Aerobic and Resistance HIIT

When efficient use of time is essential, the very best fitness workouts involve performing an HIIT session using both resistance and cardiovascular training is beneficial for people who have limited time to dedicate to exercise. 

Combining aerobic and resistance training into a shorter workout increases bone density, cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone and fat loss.

As noted above, the goal of HIIT is to vary the intensity levels – high intensity, rest, repeat.

When I first read the reports about HIIT training, it was strictly tied to aerobic intervals. However, I immediately noticed a positive correlation unveiling the body's amazing response to alternating intensity and rest.

In aerobic HIIT, it is referred to as intervals -- intensity, rest, repeat.. It consists of 3 to 5 intervals for maximum effect. In weight training, it is referred to as sets -- intensity, rest, repeat. It also consists of 3 to 5 sets to be effective.

In both forms of exercise, the ability to increase the intensity and sets is the result of the body's adaptive response.

The intensity necessary can come in several forms of resistance such weight, running up a hill, or performing resistance exercise in combination with aerobics.


Intensity + Rest = Adaptation

There are no rules here. Your workout can involve lifting weights, body-weight strength training, sprints, calisthenics and plyometrics like squats and burpees – in other words, mixing up intensity and speed while combining aerobic and resistance movements. Our bodies seem to like the challenge, and they adapt accordingly.

A very important rule of thumb when performing HIIT mixes of exercise is to focus on using good form. Don’t get sloppy or you will not only fail to reap the full benefits of your effort, you will increase your risk of injury. It never hurts to use a mirror or ask someone to watch your movements, just to ensure that you haven’t developed any bad habits. Proper form is essential, so you aren't wasting your time while trying to save on time.

Keep it short. Keep it effective. Keep it strong.

Do you remember Calisthenics? There are many benefits to calisthenics exercise, including using a calisthenics circuit to create a great strength and cardio combination. 


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Writer/attorney, Bonnie Gabaldon, is the developer of the health & fitness website, BodiesOfEvidence.com.

Bonnie graduated summa cum laude from Oregon State University with honors. She is a member of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. 

She researched and authored a significant undergraduate independent study paper, The Effect of Female Hormones on Elite Female Athletes During the First Trimester of Pregnancy.

Bonnie attended the University of New Mexico School of Law and Georgetown Law Center, and has been a licensed attorney since 2003.



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