Strapped for time, but still trying to maintain your fitness? Keith Carpenter NSCA, a certified personal trainer at the TriHealth Fitness and Health Pavilion, says incorporating brief bouts of exercise into your everyday life is an easy way to stay fit, especially on days when you don’t have time to hit the gym.
#1: Turn Your Environment into a Track
Parking at the farthest spot away from a building or taking the stairs instead of the elevator are easy ways to incorporate extra steps – and burn extra calories. “Or, even if you’re going short distances, you should walk briskly – and get up multiples times during the work day to do something like jumping jacks or just walk around,” Keith explains. “Eventually these exercises are going to accumulate and come out to equal a full workout.”
#2: Use Your Desk Chair to Strengthen Your Legs and Arms
Desk chairs can double as exercise equipment, particularly for your legs and arms. For a leg exercise, stand in front of your chair and squat down until your rear end nearly touches (or briefly touches) the chair and then come up to a full stance, without locking your knees. This exercise should only be done with a stationary chair. If this exercise bothers your hips or legs, however, do a shallow squat that doesn't go down as far.
If you have a stationary chair with arms on it, put your legs straight ahead, with the heels of your feet touching the floor. Then, place the palms of your hands on the arms of the chair and lift your body up and down out of the chair, using just your arms. Go out of the chair until your arms are straight, but do not lock any joints, to avoid straining your joints.
When performing either activity, Keith says to aim for about two or three sets of 15 to 20 reps (or as many reps as you can complete while maintaining proper form).
#3: Try Wall Sits
Wall sits, when done correctly, strengthen your leg muscles, particularly your quadriceps, without the wear and tear of a weight machine.
Stand with your back against a wall and slide down the wall until your legs create a 90-degree angle (or as close to that as your body will allow). “You want to make sure your knees never go past your toes – that’s the biggest thing,” Keith stresses.
Hold this position for 30 seconds or as long as you can, to get the most out of this exercise.
#4: Hit the Stairs for Calf Raises
Perform calf raises by standing on a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Then, lower your body and follow up by rising up onto your toes. While this exercise is more effective when done with the heels of your feet are hanging off an elevated surface because this gives you a full range-of-motion, if stairs are inaccessible, this exercise can ultimately be done anywhere by simply rising up onto the balls of your feet.
#5: When you do Have Time, Make the Most of it
Even a short workout that lasts only 10 to 15 minutes can be effective as long as you exert yourself. Try high intensity interval training (HIIT), which is a fitness strategy that alternates periods of short, intense exercises with a recovery period of lower intensity.
For example, you could run up and down steps, do jumping jacks, jump on and off stable platforms and perform burpees for the cardiovascular workout portion and then do body weight exercises, like push-ups or chair sits, to strengthen your muscles.
If you want to do a running HIIT workout, try a two-to-one ratio, where you run hard for 30 seconds and then jog slowly or rest for 15 seconds. However, “It really depends on your fitness level. Increase by going longer on the high intensity or shortening the rest,” Keith points out.
Ultimately, Keith says anytime you’re starting a new exercise routine, it’s important to consult your doctor or a fitness professional. “Listen to your body. Don’t jump into anything too quickly because you might injure yourself. If you start to feel pain, back off,” he explains.