There was a time when I believed the only way to get in shape was to dedicate at least an hour per day to exercise.
While I may have been able to swing that in my former life (otherwise known as life before children and full-time employment), it just isn’t in the cards anymore. Spending that much at the gym would require me to give up other passions and pursuits, something I’m just not willing to do.
But that certainly doesn’t mean I can or should neglect working out completely. When I resumed exercising regularly after giving birth (which wasn’t until my son was about six months old), I did so with the mindset that a little bit of movement is always better than no movement at all.
To my surprise, I’ve managed to get into pretty decent shape with only intentionally exercising for 30 minutes a day.
Of course, I say that with this important caveat: To me, “pretty decent shape” doesn’t mean that I’m able to run a half-marathon in under two hours, the way I did a few years ago. My definition of “fit” currently doesn’t include triathlons or the ability to do fifteen pull-ups.
So what does that 30 minutes a day give me in terms of fitness?
The strength to hoist my almost-two-year-old around without being sore the next day.
The lung capacity to go for a family hike without huffing and puffing.
And the energy to end a busy day of working and mothering without totally collapsing.
I’ll take it!
Here’s how I’ve been making it work.
Four Strategies to Get Fit in 30 Minutes a Day Tweet this post!
Make Every Second Count
It wasn’t until I cut my workouts to a half hour that I realized how much exercise time I had previously been wasting. Sure, I used to be at the gym for an hour, but a lot of that time was spent getting set up at my treadmill, fiddling with my music, taking breaks at the water fountain, or even just phoning it in instead of giving it my all.
Now I make sure that I spend the entire time actually working out!
Double Up Strength Training and Cardio
My old routine used to consist of an intense cardiovascular sweat session followed by some pretty relaxed bicep curls. Now I’ve learned that when done with intensity—using tougher weights and moving between exercises and sets with less rest—strength training can also really get your heart pumping!
Similarly, lots of bootcamp-type moves that are considered aerobic at first glance can easily be tweaked into great muscle-buliders too—like adding push-ups to burpees or throwing in a set of jumping lunges.
Those kinds of double-duty moves are key for shaving minutes off your workout.
Try Interval Training
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is hugely popular right now. The term refers to any workout that alternates between quick bursts of intense exercise followed by fixed periods of decreased intensity. Research shows that interval training burns significantly more calories than exercising at a steady pace.
This is especially useful for the time-crunched crowd because the workouts are super fast and efficient.
I’ve replaced my usual steady jogs with sprinting intervals—alternating sprinting at maximum effort with slow jogging or walking—and it’s definitely helped me feel more fit in less time (and it’s less boring, too!).
Keep Active Throughout the Day
When I think of exercise, I tend to think of putting on a sports bra and getting all sweaty—both of which I’m only willing to do for a short amount of time each day.
Condensed workouts are working for me because I’m also making sure I don’t spend the rest of the day sitting on my bum. When I’m writing, I take lots of breaks for walking around and stretching. When I’m with my son, I try to kick the ball with him even when I’d rather just sit on the sidelines. Those minutes count, too!
Trading hours upon hours of exercise for a mere 30 minutes a day works well for me at this stage in life. Maybe someday I’ll put in the time and effort to train for another half marathon or dedicate myself to lots of push-ups and pull-ups.
But for now, I’ve found that these strategies allow me to keep my workouts brief and still feel fit and strong.
Do you think it’s possible to get fit in 30 minutes a day? Do you use any of these strategies for making short workouts more effective?
image via Rance Costa
25 responses to “How to Get Fit in 30 Minutes a Day”
After my son was born, when I was trying to get back into shape, I did a lot of short but fairly intense workouts, and I actually ran a big 1/2 marathon PR training this way. Now that I’m pregnant, and caring for a toddler, and packing for a big move, I’m more in the “just try to be generally active” stage of working out.
I hear ya! Your experience goes to show that you really can get in awesome shape with short but intense workouts.
When we swim during open swim, one walks or plays with Susanna while the other swims.
Our swims are my fastest 200s of the week, and the hub likes to do 100s for time.
While it’s not as steady as a long swim, I love being with my family and it motivates solo swims more.
Sounds like it works out great for you and your family!
I fit one 45 minute pilates class in per week, but grab cardio in 10 minute bursts throughout my day: a walk here, a Denise Austin video on YouTube here, a bike ride around the block. While I’m not winning any Ms. Fitness titles anytime soon, it works for me right now where I am in my life.
Sounds like we’re on the same wavelength!
Oh yes I do think it’s possible. Especially when you make every bit count. I try to make myself do harder things during the day so that it adds up. And yes, doubling up on intensity. I have the 30day shred and it’s 20 minutes a day. Of course I still have a hard time doing that regularly but that’s more my type of workout. The only ones I can hang with for an hour are dance or fitness classes!
I’m a big 30 Day Shred devotee as well!
Heck yeah, it counts! I think every bit adds up, and it’s like you said – I don’t want to be running marathons (I think) but being able to keep up with the kids and be active with them without needing to sleep for an hour after… that is key.
Indeed it is, because they won’t let you sleep even if you need it! Haha.
Great tips and totally doable!I have found some of the most effective exercises are simple squats and lunges. They get your heart rate up and build strength in key areas.
I try to get the kids out for a walk as often as possible, but with full time office work and four kids it is really hard to find “me” time – so my exercise has to also include kicking the ball with the kids – and that counts – I hope!
Oh it definitely counts!
I do believe you can! I just don’t do it!!! I need to get back into it. This post has inspired me. I need a treadmill desk!!!!!
I think any amount of exercise would be better than what I’m doing now, which is practically none. At the beginning of the year I was doing well, but then I lost my motivation. I need to get back to it because I always have more energy when I do! I pretty active throughout the day, but there are some other great ideas here I haven’t tried.
This is great advice and I think you are right that it is key to make the most of the time and to stay active during the day. I always feel so much better when I am working out and this is great motivation to hold myself to just 30 minutes a day.
It’s almost freeing to realize you don’t HAVE to do more than that!
I love this! I am working on a post along the same vein. I’m with you on #4… yesterday we were at the pool and from catching, throwing, and helping my toddler “swim” I was exhausted… I could definitely feel it! Oh, and an under 2 hour half? Woohoo!
I trained really hard for that one!
I totally agree 100% with this post. I started to get serious about dropping the baby weight this past April. There isn’t a gym within 30 miles of me, so it had to be something I could do in my own living room. I have found some awesome free websites and youtube videos that I love. I love HIIT. I personally need the lower intensity portion for recovery mixed in with the highly aerobic portions, so HIIT works well for me. I don’t want to necessarily do 40 minutes or even 30 minutes some days, so I have some great 10 minute workouts that I throw in there. Even 10 intense minutes is better than nothing.
Personally I am loving spring and summer. I can get out with my kids for walks or go use the track at our local school. The variety really helps switch it up. I am already nervous for how I am going to keep up the variety once fall and winter hit again.
I love being able to get outside too. It’s definitely more of a challenge when the weather turns cold, but I think it’s still doable!
If I started working out 30 minutes a day, it would be 30 minutes more than I currently work out. I need to get into a better routine, because sitting at a desk all day doesn’t do good things for my health!
I hear ya! Some days those 30 minutes are the only ones I’m not sitting!
I MUST get back into my walking… and doing more with my weights. Life is just too hectic that I let go of this one thing first. It KILLS me every day… as I squirm to ‘let it out’. My butt is getting softer and plumper as I continue to SIT on it.
These are great tips Katie!
It’s the first thing to go for me too, but it’s amazing how much better I feel when I commit to those 30 minutes.