Ask any woman why she doesn't work out, and chances are she'll respond: "I don't have time!" Indeed, juggling a career, kids and a to-do list as long as the phone book can make fitness hard to fit in. But before you shove your running shoes to the back of the closet, you may want to rethink your attitude, says Kelli Calabrese, MS, CSCS, an exercise physiologist and former spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise.
"Many women have an 'all or nothing' mentality," says Calabrese. "They assume they have to exercise for at least an hour, or why bother? But contrary to popular belief, shorter workouts can have big benefits."
Calabrese suggests squeezing in one to two 15-minute workouts daily, on your lunch break or before dinner, for example. They'll help you slim down, and even better, they'll open up your packed schedule: "Exercising increases your energy, so you accomplish more in less time. Plus, it improves the quality of your sleep, so you may not need to sleep as long," explains Calabrese. "And that leaves more time for fitness."
If you've been sedentary, talk to your doctor before you start an exercise plan. Before beginning a workout, warm up for several minutes with an easy jog in place. A good guidepost for your exercise is not to go above an intensity that you would rate as "somewhat hard."
Try any or all of these three 15-minute workouts.
WORKOUT 1: Speed toning
For 5 minutes:
Get your heart rate up by walking briskly or jogging up and down a flight of stairs. As you raise your fitness level, you can increase your speed on each flight up. Continue to descend each flight at a moderate pace. For a great cardio workout (when you're physically up to it), do this for 15 minutes instead of 5.
For 10 minutes:
Work your legs: Sit toward the back of your chair. Lift one leg, extending your foot straight out, and hold for two seconds. Lower your foot down just short of hitting the floor and bring it back up again. Repeat 15 times on each leg.
Work your butt: Stand up tall and hold the back of your chair. Extend your right leg back and away from your chair as far as you're comfortable without having to bend your torso forward, and squeeze your butt for two seconds. Do the same with your left leg, lifting each leg 10-15 times.
Work your arms: While seated in a rolling chair, place both hands on your desk in front of you, about shoulder-width apart. Grip the desk, placing your thumb on the bottom and your fingers on the top. Slowly push yourself away from your desk and lower your head until it is between your arms. Then pull yourself all the way in while raising your head and back until your stomach touches the desk. Repeat 15 times.
WORKOUT 2: Fast footwork
Head outside or to an open hallway and begin walking. Accelerate your speed for one to two minutes until you reach your maximum speed. Then, slow your pace for a minute or two until you feel recovered. Repeat four times. If you feel you're able, gradually switch speed-walking for intervals of jogging or running. Be sure you're wearing supportive shoes, made for running or walking. Continue for 15 minutes.
WORKOUT 3: Quick cardio
Grab your jump rope (even if you don't have one, pretend, and you'll still get a great workout). Jump as quickly as you are able on the balls of your feet for one minute. Then, jump side-to-side for two minutes. For the fourth minute, jump up and back. For the fifth minute, hop on your right foot twice, and then your left foot twice, alternating back and forth. Repeat this entire series two more times (for a total of 15 minutes).