We've all been there: The day gets away from us and that hour-long trip to the gym turns into a few spare minutes before dinner. Is it worth it to hop into your workout clothes for a quick 10-minute workout? Or should you just cut your losses and try again tomorrow?
Do short workouts really make a difference?
People assume that if they don't have a lot of time, it's not even worth trying to squeeze in a workout. But the truth is that completing a short workout daily can really make a difference for your health. Studies show that exercising for just 10 minutes can boost your physical fitness, energy and mood.
In fact, there's a lot of research to support short workouts. A recent study found that taking an 11 minute daily walk can reduce your risk of disease and early death. Another recent study showed that "exercise snacks" — short bouts of exercise — can be an effective way to boost your fitness levels.
One study showed that a 10-minute burst of activity can boost your brain power. And another study found that those who exercised for 10 minutes with one minute of high-intensity intervals saw the same improvement in insulin sensitivity and other markers of cardiometabolic health as those who exercised at a moderate pace for 45 minutes straight.
In other words, there is ample research touting the benefits of short workouts — so there's no reason to skip a quick workout! It really does add up.
What’s the best workout to do if I only have 10 minutes?
So, yes, quick workouts really do make a difference, which leads us to the question of which workouts we should do given our time constraints. If you're already short on time, you probably don't want to spend it parsing through multitudes of workout options. The good news is that which workout you choose depends on your goals and how you want to feel afterwards. There isn't one kind of workout that is somehow superior to all the others.
In other words, you get to decide based on your own needs. Ask yourself how you want to feel during and after your workout? Do you want to relax? Break a sweat? Get out some aggression? There’s a workout that will get you there with a few minutes of effort. I've done the work of matching exercise moves with moods and goals so you don't have to.
Your work is to check in with yourself and be honest about your energy level, your mood and your goals. Boil that down into an "I statement." For example, "I want to feel relaxed," or, "I want to have stronger abs." Then strategically choose the type of movement that will help you get there. Here are 13 great options.
I want to feel strong
Workout: Full-body strength training
Grab a pair of dumbbells or use your bodyweight to run through some full-body exercises. Some of my favorites are squats, modified pushups, deadlifts and bent over rows. You can find a free full-body toning workout online or simply pick your own mix of exercises that engage all of the muscles in your body.
I want to calm down
Workout: Seated meditation and yoga
If you are having a stressful day and need to relax, meditation followed by a few simple yoga poses will help you reset in minutes. Start by doing a few minutes of a simple breathing meditation, breathing in through your nose for 4 counts, holding for 4 counts, and then out through your nose. After a few rounds of that, move into some spinal rotation like a seated twist and seated cat and cow.
I want to build my core strength
Get down on the ground and do 10 Pilates exercises for 60 seconds each. The Pilates 100, bridge pose, single leg straight stretch, and other popular Pilates moves will help you feel the burn in your abdominals and leave your core feeling tighter for the rest of the day.
I want to relieve back pain and improve my posture
Workout: Dumbbell back exercises
A lot of folks struggle with chronically achey backs. In fact, back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical care. The good news is that a lot of the problems that create back pain can be solved with exercises. To do this workout, you'll need two dumbbells, a mat and a timer. Pick five of these dumbbell back exercises.
I want to release tension
Focusing on a quick standing yoga routine can help you elongate your front, back and side body so that you feel taller and looser. You can also opt for a 10-minute stretch to help relieve tension that creeps up in your neck, back and shoulders during the day.
I want to tone my legs
Workout: No-equipment leg strength
#Legday doesn't have to take a whole day. I've compiled the best at-home leg exercises. Since a lot of them are done standing, you may not even need a mat, but you should keep some water handy to stay hydrated. Pick five of these exercises. If you want to start slow, alternate legs and do each move for one minute, then repeat. If you want to level up the difficulty, try doing all five of the exercises on one side for one minute and then doing all five of the exercises on the other side for the second half of your workout.
I want to tone my arms
Workout: Upper-body strength training
You'll be surprised how quickly you can feel the burn when focusing on your upper body. Grab your dumbbells and perform a strength-training routine that includes bicep curls, overhead presses, tricep extensions, and pushups or modified pushups.
I want to get out aggression
Workout: Lower-body strength training
Do you feel frustrated, annoyed or angry at the world? We all have those days. Try squatting it out — literally. Make your lower-body burn through squats, lunges, leg lifts and other exercises that work the biggest muscles in the body: the quads, hamstrings and glutes.
I want to have rock hard abs
Workout: No equipment ab exercises
A lot of people have “get stronger abs” on their fitness to-do lists. Rock hard abs are coveted for aesthetic reasons, but having strong abs also improves your posture and supports all your other movements. The best part of strengthening your abs is that you really only need a few minutes a day. And, because the ab muscles are small, you can work them every day. Grab a mat, pick five of these ab exercises, do each of them for one minute and then repeat the cycle.
I want to feel drenched in sweat
Workout: High-intensity cardio
Sometimes you just need a good sweat. Start with a quick two-minute warm up (like a light jog) and then do a few minutes of intervals like sprinting for one minutes, jogging for three, sprinting for another minute, and jogging for three. You can do this on the elliptical, running in place, on a spin bike or outside.
I want to boost my mood
Workout: Dance or aerobics
I know, this sound silly at first, but turning on a few of your favorite songs and dancing around your house can do wonders for your mood. Not only are you getting a shot of feel-good dopamine from moving around, but you’re also likely bringing to mind feelings of nostalgia or happiness from hearing your favorite songs and moving to the beat of them. The calorie burn is an added bonus!
I want to make progress toward my weight-loss goals
High-intensity interval training is the most effective way to see progress in a short amount of time. Find a quick HIIT workout that alternates between strength training and cardio. The mix of high intensity and lower-intensity movement keeps your body guessing and is the best way to stoke your metabolism and get rid of stubborn and excess weight.
I want to tone my glutes
Workout: Bodyweight exercises to tone and strengthen your glutes
If you want a peachier backside, you're going to have to do some strength training. But you don't need a fancy gym membership or any fancy equipment. Just grab a mat and a timer. Pick five of these glute exercises, do each of them for one minute and then repeat the cycle. Take a day off of working this muscle group and then pick five different exercises for your next booty workout. You might be surprised by how quickly you see a difference!