While having only a half-hour of free time in your day to devote to exercise might not seem like much, it's actually plenty for getting in a daily dose of cardio or strength training. You might have to be a little more strategic about your routine than someone who has more time to kill, but that 30 minutes a day is still going to help you build muscle, prevent chronic diseases and maintain a healthy body composition. In other words, don't worry so much about your limited time -- just get out there and start exercising.
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has some standard advice about exercise for all adults, whether you're 18 or 68. HHS recommends that all adults do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise each week, which breaks down to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If you're working out at an even more vigorous pace and doing intense forms of exercise, the recommendations go down to 75 minutes a week, or about 15 minutes a day. The department also recommends that adults do strength training exercises two days a week, working all of the major muscle groups. Those recommendations fit right into your 30-minute time frame.
Creating a Schedule
If you want to stay within the guidelines and start reaping the benefits of better health -- and a more positive outlook -- it helps to start by working the exercise routine into your routine in a formal way. If you keep an electronic or paper calendar, pencil in that 30 minutes a day so you don't schedule anything over it. Common times for exercise include during your lunch break, before work or after dinner. Make your schedule even more specific by deciding -- and then writing down -- the days during which you'll do your cardio and the days you'll do your strength training. Since you need to give your muscles at least one day of rest between strength training sessions, don't schedule strength training two days in a row.
Big Calorie Burners
If your goal for starting exercise is simply to get healthier, it doesn't matter what type of exercise you do -- even walking at a brisk pace is fine. If you have a goal of losing weight or getting "fit," however, choose an exercise that will get your heart beating at a rapid pace and make it hard for you to carry on a conversation. Running and jumping rope are big calorie burners, don't require you to spend time going to the gym and won't cost a lot of money. Jogging at a moderate pace for 25 minutes -- remember that you also need five minutes for a walking warmup -- will burn about 372 calories for a 140-pound person, and jumping rope will burn more than 400. If you have a bicycle, it's also a great way to commute to work and get in a workout at the same time. You'll burn about 192 calories in that 30 minutes. Keep it simple -- have your shoes and gear ready to go, warm up by walking for five minutes, and then do the rest of your workout for 25 to 30 minutes -- if you can squeeze in a few extra minutes.
If you thought strength training was impossible because you won't have the time to go to the gym, think again. With the most basic of equipment -- or no equipment at all -- you can do a total-body strength training routine. If you have a little money to spend, invest in a pair of 5- and 10-pound dumbbells and an exercise ball. Hold the dumbbells and do biceps curls, triceps extensions and side raises to work the arms and shoulders. Hold the weights at your sides as you do lunges and squats. Use the exercise ball to do crunches for your abs, planks for your core and shoulder bridge exercises to work your butt and hamstrings. If you don't want your office to be filled with exercise equipment or you can't invest the cash, do planks and pushups for your upper body, lunges and squats for your lower body, and crunches such as the bicycle crunch and reverse crunch for your core. Stick to your schedule and you'll find that even in 30 minutes a day, you'll start to slim down and feel better.