A 10-Minute Cardio Workout to Clear Your Mind and Boost Your Focus

All you need is 10 minute to get your heart pumping and your focus back on track.
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Cardio is great for boosting your feel-good endorphins and heart health, but there's another reason to fit an aerobic workout into your daily routine: It can help improve your brain function by delivering a jolt of energy and alertness to power your through the rest of your day.

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"As you move, breathing speeds up, heart rate increases, blood vessels open and oxygenated blood flows faster throughout the body and to the brain," John Shackleton, CSCS, creator of ShackFit, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "The increased blood flow to the brain promotes growth of new blood vessels, brain cells, and triggers the release of chemicals that can improve your mood."

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But you don't need to hop on a treadmill for an hour to get these brain-boosting benefits. According to an August 2020 review published in ​Translational Sports Medicine​, even two minutes of cardio can help improve your thinking. You can do a Tabata workout, crank out a set of burpees, take a brisk walk or dance around your living room.

Extend those two minutes to 10 to wake up your mind and increase focus first thing in the morning or when you hit an afternoon slump. Try this easy and effective 10-minute workout from Shackleton that you can do anywhere.

Do:​ each exercise for one minute back to back and complete two rounds total.

Move 1: High Knee Pull to Step Back Lunge With High Reach

Move 1: High Knee Pull to Step Back Lunge With High Reach
Image Credit: John Shackleton/LIVESTRONG.com
Time 1 Min
Type Flexibility and Strength
  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Pull one knee up with two hands to the height of your ribcage. Hold your knee in this position for two seconds while focusing on your posture. Your support leg should be locked out and torso upright with shoulder blades back as you stand on one leg.
  3. Release your knee and step straight back into a deep lunge as you bring your arms straight up overhead. In the lunge position, bend your front knee to a 90-degree angle with the back leg fully extended.
  4. Hold the deep lunge for two seconds before driving the front foot through the ground to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the same movement sequence on the other side, alternating legs for 60 seconds.

Tip

This move is great for increasing hip and shoulder mobility as well as single-leg strength and stability around the ankle, knee and hip. It also helps improve posture through the torso, upper back and neck.

"Focus on controlling your breath as you move through the exercise," Shackleton says. Begin with a four-second inhale and as you pull the knee up, exhale for another four seconds. As you step back into the lunge, inhale again for four seconds, followed by another exhale for four seconds while returning to the starting position.

Move 2: Squat With Woodchop

Move 2: Squat With Woodchop
Image Credit: John Shackleton/LIVESTRONG.com
Time 1 Min
Type Cardio and Strength
  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bring the palms together and interlace the fingers. Bring your arms up over head.
  2. Descend down into a deep squat position by sitting your hips back while keeping your chest up. Swing your arms down between your legs.
  3. Push your knees out slightly as you sit into the squat. Keep your arms long between your legs and fists towards the floor.
  4. Hold the bottom position for one second before coming back up by pushing your feet through the floor and stand up, swinging your arms overhead again.

Tip

"This move will activate the quads, hamstrings, and glutes and will help reset posture after sitting for long periods," Shackleton says.

Inhale for four seconds as you descend into the deep squat position. Then exhale for two seconds as you stand up. At the top, focus on pushing your hips forward while squeezing the glutes for that extra burn.

Move 3: Elevated High Plank With Alternating Knee

Move 3: Elevated High Plank With Alternating Knee
Image Credit: John Shackleton/LIVESTRONG.com
Time 1 Min
Type Cardio and Strength
  1. Find a chair or desk and set up in a high plank position with feet hip-width apart and hands directly under the shoulders. Knees should be locked out with quads and glutes engaged. Pull the abs in to brace the spine and keep the back flat.
  2. Bring one knee up toward the chest until the knee is flexed at 90 degrees.
  3. Hold this position for one second before bringing the foot back to the floor.
  4. Repeat the same movement on the other leg, alternating legs for 60 seconds.

Tip

Planks are a total power move for developing strength and stability for the shoulders, core and hips, Shackleton says.

Inhale for four seconds to begin, then exhale for two seconds as you drive the knee up. Then inhale for four seconds as you bring the leg back to the starting position, slow and controlled. Make sure you keep a flat back as you bring your knees up.

Move 4: Lateral Lunge to Single-Leg Balance With Rotation

Move 4: Lateral Lunge to Single-Leg Balance With Rotation
Image Credit: John Shackleton/LIVESTRONG.com
Time 1 Min
Type Cardio and Strength
  1. Stand tall with feet under the hips.
  2. Take a big step out to the side and bend your knee to sit your hips back while reaching your arms out in front of you at shoulder height to help with counterbalance.
  3. Sit to your furthest point and hold for one second before driving the foot through the ground to stand back.
  4. As you stand up, bring the lunge side knee up to 90-degrees while balancing on the other leg. Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle and stack your arms at shoulder height.
  5. Rotate your shoulders over the knee that's flexed.
  6. Rotate back to the front and bring the foot down to the starting position.
  7. Repeat the same movement sequence on the other side, alternating sides for 60 seconds.

Tip

This move is excellent for increasing stability and mobility around the ankles, knees, hips and upper back.

Begin with a four-second inhale. As you step out to lunge, exhale for four seconds. As you push out of the lunge, exhale for two seconds. Take a second to gather your balance on one leg. Inhale for four seconds, then exhale for four seconds as you rotate.

Make sure to keep the opposite foot flat on the floor and your leg that's reaching out for the lunge long and at the furthest point possible. "You should feel a good stretch in your groin," Shackleton says.

Move 5: Elevated Plank With Alternating Leg Lift

Move 5: Elevated Plank With Alternating Leg Lift
Image Credit: John Shackleton/LIVESTRONG.com
Time 1 Min
Type Cardio and Strength
  1. Using a chair or desk, position yourself in a forearm plank with your feet hip-width apart and elbows directly under your shoulders. Engage your lower legs by locking out the knees and squeezing your glutes. Pull your stomach in to provide a brace for your spine while keeping your back flat.
  2. Lift one leg straight up toward the ceiling while keeping your leg straight.
  3. When you can't lift anymore without your hips rotating, hold the position for one second before returning to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the same movement on the other leg, alternating legs for 60 seconds.

Tip

This move builds strength and stability in your core while activating your glutes. Begin with an inhale for 4 seconds and as you lift the leg, exhale for 4 seconds. Inhale for 4 seconds as you bring the foot back to the floor to the starting position.

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