Most of us recognize the benefits of exercise in theory; in practice however, many of us may feel we simply can’t create the time in our day for cardio and resistance training. Between work and family commitments, there’s precious little time left over for a stint at the gym.
That said, certain exercises are more efficient than others. These types of exercises, known as multi-joint exercises or compound exercises, utilize a number of different muscle groups at same time, which burns more calories and builds more strength. Better yet, you can use your own body weight as resistance for many of these exercises, so no need to go to the gym.
If you only have 10 minutes to exercise, grab a corner of the office or the living room and try these exercises to get maximum benefit in the minimum amount of time:
1. Push Ups
Push ups are one of the best exercises to do if you only have 10 minutes. Push ups work every major muscle group in the upper body: the chest, the shoulders and the triceps. Push ups also give your core a great work out, since you hold a plank position for each repetition.
One of the key things to keep in mind for form: maintain your head in alignment with the rest of your spine and lead each rep with your chest, not your head. Tuck your chin in and look down as opposed to forward. Improper head position in a push up can lead to shoulder and neck injuries.
Squats are another super-efficient multi-joint exercise that requires no equipment. Several major muscle groups are involved in the squat, including the glutes, the hamstrings, the quadriceps and the calf muscles. Core muscles also engage during the squat as stabilizers.
Technique-wise, squats require a straight back. Keep your head in line with the rest of your spine and avoid looking at the ceiling or at the floor. Both of these head positions can cause potential neck problems. Also, keep your feet hip-width apart and don’t allow your knees to collapse inward – over time, this can cause knee injuries.
3. Stair Climbing
Climbing stairs is one of the most effective cardio exercises. Stairs are easy to find – most office buildings and homes have at least one flight – and offer a simple way to raise your heart rate sufficiently, with no need for special equipment.
Vary your stair climbing routine to work different muscles in different ways. For example, you can climb the stairs backwards to place more emphasis on the backs of your legs, or climb the stairs two at a time to intensify the cardiovascular output.
Exercise need not take hours and hours to be effective. Think in terms of quality over quantity if you’re starved for time, and focus your efforts on exercises like these that will build the most muscle strength, endurance and cardiovascular benefits in the least amount of time.
Emma Cale is the staff writer at Slimband, Canada’s leading weight loss surgery clinic. Emma is a regular contributor to a number of health and wellness blogs. Her favourite topics include weight loss, nutrition, fitness, obesity research, and obesity-related illnesses.