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30-Minute Lunchtime Workouts

Can’t find time to exercise? Try 30-minute lunchtime workouts, and you may find it the best time of day to exercise for more energy and less stress.
By Susan Seliger
WebMD Feature

There are as many excuses not to work out as there are hours in the day: In the morning, you tell yourself you need sleep even more than exercise; after work, you’re too tired. “No time” is one of the prime reasons most people give for not exercising. But what if you could find an extra hour that wouldn’t cut into work, family, or precious sleep time?  Welcome to the 30-minute lunchtime workout, an increasingly popular exercise regimen gaining credence in gyms and workplaces throughout the country.

“It’s found time,” says Lisa Corsello, ACE certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and nutritional counselor in San Francisco.  “If you’re going to go for lunch or hang out in someone’s office, why not use that time for yourself – and your body?” 

And for busy people, midday turns out to be the best time of day to exercise. You reap physical and psychological benefits, too – a boost in energy, less stress. “People get lost in their day at work, there’s a lot of stress and anxiety,” Corsello says. “Being able to take a step away [in the middle of the day] from whatever is going on can clear your mind and help you refocus.” In fact, she says, you’ll find that you’re calmer and have a sense of accomplishment that carries through the rest of the day.  And you may get an added bonus: Less time to eat might just mean that you actually eat less.   

However, squeezing exercise -- and eating lunch -- into your usual lunch hour does call for a bit of advance planning and some special strategies.  Here’s how to make 30-minute lunchtime workouts work for you:

Write Lunchtime Workouts Into Your Calendar

“If you start off with the idea that you’ll be at the gym every single lunchtime Monday through Friday, that’s not realistic,” Corsello says.  “You’ll feel like you’re failing and then be less likely to go.” A better strategy is to sit down with your calendar on Sunday night, figure out which days you’ll have the most time, and write lunchtime workouts in for those days.  Treat your lunchtime workout as you would any other appointment and you’ll be much less likely to bag it at the last minute.  

“If you’re worried that your boss will give you flak, you might want to talk to him or her first,” says Lisa Johnson, certified personal trainer, Pilates instructor, and owner of Studio Elle Pilates in Brookline, Mass.  “Ask them to let you try it for week.  Tell them you’ll be calmer and more productive.  If you’re getting your work done, there shouldn’t be a problem.”

No matter how great a boss you have, chances are you’ll need to keep your workout to 30 minutes to leave enough time to get there, change, and clean up afterward.  “You don’t want to be stressed and anxious about getting back,” Corsello says.  If you want to do cardio and tend to sweat a lot, you probably need to keep it to 30 minutes to allow time for showering or stick to strength-training. “If you can get to the gym four weekdays, you can divide it up to do 30 minutes of cardio twice a week, and strength-training the other two times,” suggests Johnson.  “Then on weekends try to schedule a longer session.”

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