I work a lot of hours and can't seem to find time to work out more than one day a week. If my exercise routine is limited to once a week, what are the best exercises for me? What will give me the greatest return?


It's helpful to think in terms of physical activity, not exercise. Many people think they don't have time for exercise but are surprised to realize how much they can increase their daily physical activity outside of an official "exercise routine." That boost, even in small amounts of time, pays off for your body.

To maintain health, the national guidelines for physical activity set forth by the American College of Sports Medicine and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend adding 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (brisk walking), five or more days per week, or 20 minutes of vigorous intensity activity (running), three or more days per week. If you want to lose weight, you will need to burn an additional 500 to 700 calories per day.

Think this would take up a lot of time? Relax! You don't need to find a free half-hour. Research shows that you will gain the same benefit if you complete the daily activity in three 10-minute bouts. Here are great moderate and vigorous activities that take only 10 minutes and can be incorporated into your day:

  • Jumping rope
  • Gardening or raking
  • Dancing
  • Brisk walking or jogging
  • Vacuuming
  • Stair climbing or marching in place
  • Push-ups and sit-ups
  • Jumping jacks
  • Bike riding for errands or short commutes
  • Incorporating activity into your workday—use the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to talk with co-workers instead of e-mailing, stand (it burns more calories) when you would usually sit

Push-ups may remind you of the terrors of high school gym class, but they're a terrific strength training activity for women that can be done at home (or almost anywhere else) easily, at your own speed. Try them for a 10-minute session:

  • Lie on the floor, facing chest down. Put your hands flat on the ground, at shoulder level. Place your feet together and parallel. Throughout the push-up, always look forward and not down at the floor.

  • Straighten your arms as you push your body up off the floor and exhale. Keep your body straight. Do not bend or arch your upper or lower back as you push up.

  • For a classic push-up, balance in a straight line from your toes. If you have trouble with that, try a modified version: pivot up from your knees instead of your toes.

  • Slowly lower your body until your chest touches the floor. If you are pivoting from your toes, keep your knees off the floor. For either position, keep your body straight and your feet together. Repeat.

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