Lots of people mean to work out regularly, but it’s often all too easy to just not get around to it.
Sure, we know that exercise is basically the closest thing to a magic pill for our health that’s out there, but — in a busy, busy world especially — where do you find the time?
Luckily for those of us who could use the many benefits of exercise, from improved cardiovascular health to stress reduction and mood-boosting effects (so, all of us), modern fitness science has done a lot to eliminate excuses for skipping a workout.
Short, high-intensity workouts that can often be accomplished in half an hour or even less can be just as effective as longer workouts.
That’s backed up by a growing body of research, which shows that for many measures of physical health, these fitness routines can be just as good as routines that take two to fives times as long. And many of these workouts can be accomplished in your home without expensive equipment, according to Jason Barone, clinical director of Professional Physical Therapy.
“Time is everything for people,” says Barone. “High intensity training is kind of perfect for the busy schedule — you don’t need a gym, you can do it at your home, you’re looking at about a 20 to 30 minute workout.”
What Barone is talking about is high intensity interval training, where people work out at a close to full-on level for short periods of time instead of doing longer workouts at more moderate, 60-70% exertion levels. Some of these workouts include short sprints mixed in with warm up and cool down time; others are short circuits of bodyweight exercises.
At the same time, working out at full intensity without being prepared for it potentially puts you at risk for a muscle or lower back strain, along with other injuries.
Here’s how Barone says to get started and how to avoid hurting yourself along the way.
- Find a program. Barone says he doesn’t have one particular workout to recommend but that many can work — find one you like. Several routines that we’ve found effective include bodyweight exercises using the The 7-Minute Workout app or the Sworkit App. Others might try this study-backed 10-minute routine that includes just one minute of all-out exercise.
- Start a beginner level, move on to a more advanced level. This is especially true if you are trying to get back into shape but haven’t been working out regularly. Don’t pick something that’s too complicated for you to do with proper form. Work your way up to harder programs to avoid injuring yourself.
- Warm up properly. When you are going all-out, there’s a chance you could injure yourself if you aren’t warmed up. You don’t want to just stretch and touch your toes either. Barone says to look for about a five-minute dynamic warmup that will help get your muscles ready to go (a YouTube search brings up quite a few good ones).
- Do your routine and listen to your body. Push yourself through the workout, trying to complete every exercise with the best form you can. “It’s good to push the body, but you need to listen to it as well,” says Barone. “Be aware of warning signs … don’t push through pain [especially a sharp twinge or tightening], that might mean you need to take it easy.” You want to make sure you don’t put yourself out of commission and miss your next workout.
- Repeat. The main reason you’ve got to find a program that you enjoy is that you’ll get the most out of exercise if you do it regularly. That might be one of the free routines linked to above or it might be a program at a gym or something else. Find something that you like enough that you can keep it up.
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