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Lunchtime workouts are one of the top fitness trends of 2020. How to make them a habit

Working from home has led to a renewed interest in midday workouts. Here is expert advice for making them happen.
Yoga space at home
Breaking up the workday with a workout can help reduce stress on the body from prolonged sitting.SrdjanPav / Getty Images stock

It’s no surprise that lunchtime workouts have become increasingly popular over the past year, seeing a 67% increase in popularity, according to the 2020 trend report from ClassPass, released last week.

Anyone who has pried themselves away from their computer for a midday workout knows how great it can feel to get a mental break and move your body. And the pandemic has made it a more accessible option for people who are working from home.

In fact, “for the first time ever, 12 p.m. is the most popular time to work out during the week,” according to the report from the subscription site, which allows members to book a variety of boutique fitness classes. “This shift can largely be attributed to a rise in remote work, and the ease of no-shower-required virtual meetings. Even as people have returned to studios, the 12 p.m. weekday time slot for in-person classes is more popular now than it was before lockdowns.”

Experts agree that this trend is a healthy one to adopt even once life gets back to normal.

“Midday workouts are great because it breaks the work day up,” physical therapist Karena Wu, owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York City, told TODAY. “You are typically not battling energy deficits as much in the midday versus early morning or end of the workday. You are also apt to be more organized and efficient with your workout and time because you need to ... get back into the office to work.”

And aside from being efficient, clocking in a workout midday may actually be healthier than logging your miles in the morning or sweating it out at night after you log off.

“Lunchtime workouts can help reduce stress on the body because it gets you up and moving versus staying stagnant for a long stretch,” said Wu. “As we exercise, we contract, relax and lengthen our tissues which can help combat the cumulative effect of prolonged positioning during work hours that can lead to injuries.”

"I love lunchtime workouts because they encourage improved circulation, stress reduction and mobility after long hours sitting at a computer," agreed personal trainer and women's weight-loss coach, Stephanie Mansour, who encourages her clients to squeeze in midday workouts when possible.

The habit can also help you make healthier choices for the rest of the day. "Working out earlier in the day can make you more mindful about afternoon snacking or overeating at dinner, and helps you feel more accomplished for the rest of the day," Mansour said.

How to make lunchtime workouts a habit:

Like any new habit, it can be hard to get into the groove of taking that midday break to exercise if it isn’t something you’re used to doing. Here are some expert tips for giving it a try — and making it a healthy habit you can stick with.

  • Dress in your workout clothes. Save yourself the extra task of having to change your clothes when workout time rolls around. That way you can simply get up from your desk and jump right into it. (Plus, if you're already dressed for a workout, you'll be less likely to skip it.)
  • Start small. An hour break is way more daunting, and harder to commit to, than a 10-minute walk. Start with something manageable and work your way up to a longer workout once you establish a habit. "Stretches at your desk or a walk around the block are great ways to dip your toes into making this a habit," said Mansour. "Then move on to 5-minute workouts. Next, try a 10-minute walk or work out at home with a yoga mat. Finally, commit to 30 minutes a day."
  • Schedule it like a meeting. Whether you plan to do a 5-minute stretch session or a longer walk around the neighborhood, set a calendar reminder. Putting it on your calendar will not only alert co-workers that you will be away from your desk so that last-minute meetings don’t pop up, but it will also be helpful to see it in your schedule so that you can mentally prepare to take a break and then remember to actually step away.
  • Know your goal. “If someone is looking to just get their body moving, walking on the treadmill (or) outdoors, the Stairmaster or bicycling can benefit the mind and body," said Wu. "If you want to strengthen your muscles and joints, pumping iron or even calisthenics can work multiple muscles and get joints moving so that they offer support during activities and even during prolonged positioning. If someone is looking for more mental stress management, low-impact movements or stretches along with breathing control is extremely beneficial for those in fast-paced environments as it can help offset the flurry of activities and balance the high energies during the work day,” said Wu.
  • Choose an activity that complements your workday. “Know what your work day has in store for you," suggested Wu. "Try to do something that can balance or unload the work stresses versus doing something that adds more stress into your day, like squeezing in that high-intensity cardio when you have to 'run' back to your desk to complete a project,” said Wu. “This sustained high energy run-around can actually lead to injuries as you might be trying to do too much in your day.” For most people, yoga and Pilates will work wonders, said Mansour. "Yoga is great if you're stiff, sore and don't want to sweat (you can find lower intensity yoga routines or classes). Pilates is fabulous if you are tight on space and want to work your core and improve posture after sitting all day," she said.
  • If you don't have time for a break, combine work and movement. "Going on a walk outside is great if you're short on time but can take a work call without video," suggested Mansour.
  • Plan a nutritious lunch ahead of time. “You also need to nourish your system after the workout which means some planning in a post-exercise meal,” said Wu. To prevent yourself from jumping right back into work without eating, prep easy meals that you can grab and eat or easily assemble like pre-chopping veggies and lettuce for salads or making a big pot of soup on Sunday night that you can heat up during the week.

Ready to take sweat it out during your lunch break? Check out our 30-minute lunchtime workouts on IGTV!