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Healthy Habits: Efficient Workouts

It’s easy to make a plan. To say, “I’m going to go to the gym three to five times a week, and work out for an hour every time.” But then life gets in the way.

Despite our best intentions, it’s not always practical to get to the gym, to go for a run, or to sign up for an exercise class. Maybe work is crazy. Maybe your kid is sick. Maybe it’s just too darn cold outside. That doesn’t mean you need to give up.

“When it comes to exercise, something is always way better than nothing,” says Lynn James, Corporate Director of Health and Well-Being at Recovery Centers of America.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas for simple, efficient workouts to get you through the days when the gym is just too far.

Compound Movements

James suggests looking for exercises that work several major muscle groups at the same time, such as planks, lunges, squats, wall sits and the old favorite: push-ups.

“More energy is required to coordinate these movements,” says James, “and by training the body as one integrated unit, you’re able to stimulate more than one muscle at a time.”

When strung together, these simple exercises can add up to one powerful workout, making them appropriate for beginners and experts alike. James recommends performing two sets of each exercise for 30 seconds each, with 30 seconds of rest in between, scaling up or down depending on how much time you have.

When doing these exercises, always take care to make sure your form is pristine. It’s better to do five great push-ups than 10 half-hearted ones.

Interval Training

A more complex form of exercise, interval training combines compound movements with simple cardio.

“Again,” says James, “the goal is to fit in as much exercise as you can, when you can.”

She recommends doing the same 30 seconds on/30 seconds off routine, incorporating cardio-friendly exercises like jumping jacks, step-ups, mountain climbers, squats and high knees. One or two sets of those will get your heart pumping and the blood flowing.

Jump Rope

If you prefer to focus on a single, simple exercise, few can compete with a few minutes jumping rope. A $10 jump rope is the world’s cheapest home gym, offering core-strengthening, calf-toning, cardio and posture improvement all at once.

“Due to the coordination it takes to perform, it’s also an exercise for the brain helping to improve focus,” says James. “When you get in the zone of jumping rope, it can be a meditative experience.”

Let the Minutes Add Up

Is the time you have to work out less lunch break and more coffee break? Don’t sweat it.

“If time is an issue,” says James, “don’t focus on the number of workouts you do each week. Focus on collecting exercise minutes.

Look for little opportunities to get your heart rate up—whether that’s by taking the stairs two at a time or chasing your kid around the living room. Whatever you can squeeze in, your body will thank you.

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