Pretty much every major health organization has been touting the benefits of 20-30 minutes of cardio exercise done at least 3-5 times a week. Why? Well, most North Americans live a sedentary lifestyle, and this lifestyle is killing us. We take our cars when we should walk, use gas-powered machines instead of doing manual labor, and the majority of us spend 8-9 hours a day behind a desk.
All of that inactivity leads to the build up of fat, lack of muscle, and puts excess stress on our hearts. In addition, cancer rates are also higher among those who choose this sedentary life. But there is no need to throw your hands up in the air in exasperation. There is a simple solution.
Just a small commitment of time can give you all the benefits you need to condition your heart, lose some weight, and add years to your life. So if you want to take the first step in the right direction, keep reading to learn some of the easiest, most convenient 20-30 minute cardio routines around.
Monday – Skipping
A lot of us skipped or jumped rope as kids, and many adults still do. Boxers have benefited for years from the intense cardio that come from skipping. If you don’t have a high ceiling in your house or apartment, go out on the balcony or into the garage.
Just start off simple and jump and skip, until you feel comfortable going faster – try mixing it up by alternating your speed, which will increase your cardio activity. Just 15 minutes with a rope can burn over a hundred calories, and it is an inexpensive workout. The best part about skipping is that you can do it almost anywhere, and the rope can go with you on business trips.
Tuesday – Coed sports
The last thing you want to do is alienate your partner, so why not try out a coed sport? Most city gyms/recreation parks and YMCAs offer many different organized sports that occur after work. The beautiful thing about these events is that they are usually very inexpensive, not highly competitive, and do not require an expensive gym membership in order to participate. You can often enter as an individual or team, with sports ranging from Volleyball to Bocce.
Pick a sport you like, so that you will look forward to going each week. The games will probably run longer than 30 minutes, but you won’t be going full tilt during the entire time. If you are looking for serious cardio, select an event that requires you to be moving a lot – like soccer or squash. Sports like softball don’t require you to move that much, but they are better than nothing. Plus, you will be replacing watching TV with a physical activity.
Wednesday – Jogging
Whether it is winter or summer, jogging is a great way to get some much needed cardio. And you don’t have to run for 10 miles to get some great health benefits. Get up 30 minutes earlier than usual on Wednesday; stretch, then run away from your house for 15 minutes, turn around and run for 10 minutes, then walk the rest of the way home to cool down.
That simple exercise will burn over 300 calories, and then you don’t have to worry about doing anything else for the rest of the day. Remember – speed is not essential, but doing at least 30 minutes is.
Thursday – Rollerblade
Lots of people roller blade to work, but for most of us this is not a realistic option. Blading will cause you to work up a sweat, which may result in you being known as the “smelly guy” around the office. Not good. But when you are home on Thursday after work, slap on the blades before you eat dinner. Working out on an empty stomach will burn off more calories, plus you won’t be sluggish from overeating.
Blading on Thursday night to the video store before dinner gives you a nice routine to follow, and a distance that you can handle. If the video store is too far, then maybe go to the store for a paper. Just make sure it is a distance that requires you to be skating for at least 30 minutes.
Friday – Walking
The odds are pretty good that you have plans on Friday night, so leaving your cardio until the end of the day might result in a good excuse not to do anything. Since most Fridays are casual days, walking might make a lot of sense. Walking is no longer just for seniors; nowadays every one is doing it.
The trick is to try and incorporate walking into your busy lifestyle, so that you don’t feel as though you have to ‘make’ the time to get the 30 minutes. Many business and downtown areas offer walking groups and clubs for white collar workers on their lunch breaks.
Another suggestion is to get off the subway or bus a stop or two before where you normally get off, so that every Monday you end up walking several blocks to get to work. 30 minutes of walking will burn off over 200 calories, so it can be very effective. Plus, you won’t work up a sweat, so you don’t have to worry about taking a shower before heading back to the office.
Saturday – Biking
Cycling has a lot of great health benefits, including forcing you to get outside and breathe some fresh air. If you buy groceries on Saturdays, why not make the trip on a bike? You can use your back pack or saddle bags, and even hang bags from the handlebars. This way you will get the workout and get a chore done at the same time.
You can also head to the park and enjoy the view, or maybe head down to the shore and follow a coastal path. If you have a lot of free time, then go mountain-biking off road. Keep in mind that 100 calories are burned off about every 15 minutes, so this can be a great way to shed some calories and those love-handles.
Sunday – Hiking
On Sunday, take the time to relax just a little. A hike through the woods or mountains is a great way to get the cardio, but you won’t feel like you are even doing exercise. Plan a picnic to the top of hill, or maybe a hike through the woods to a hidden riverbank.
Remember, this doesn’t have to be a treacherous, exhausting hike, just a fun way to get outdoors and enjoy nature. You don’t need an SUV to take you there, just the two legs you were born with.
The most important thing to remember is that this is not exercise. All you are doing is changing your lifestyle slightly, so that you have added in 30 minutes of cardio each day. Aside form the obvious calorie burning benefits, you will increase your metabolism overall. This means you will feel better, have more strength, and be less likely to put on weight. Before cars and power tools were invented, this is how people lived their lives. Once you start looking into ways you can have fun and get some cardio into your daily routine, you will wonder why you didn’t start a long time ago.