Lunch Hour Workout (cont.)

"After your workout, you can also have a quick, high-carb snack -- even a small candy bar -- but you should also have a light lunch within no more than 45 minutes after working out," says Valency.

Back to Work

One reason high-intensity, short-burst workouts are effective is that you're pushing your muscles to the point of temporary fatigue.

"It's all about progressive overload -- stepping up the intensity while cutting down the time, so your muscles are pushed to the point where you feel you have to stop," says Tyne.

That doesn't mean you'll be heading back to work sore, tired, and achy, experts say. The key is to start slowly and build intensity gradually.

"The [muscle] recovery period is different for every person and fitness level at the start," says Tyne. "So if you haven't been exercising, you'll want to start by doing some light activity and working up to the point where you're pushing your muscles to fatigue."

And not only should your workout session not leave you drained, it should help energize you for the rest of the workday.

"Anything that gets the blood flowing into your muscles and increases your oxygen level -- which movement does -- is going to make you feel much more alert, more awake, and better able to handle your workload," Valency says. "I've seen it do wonders for that typical afternoon work slump that many people experience."

Because a lunchtime workout is shorter in duration, experts say you're not likely to work up too much of a sweat. But if you do, a quick sponge bath, some deodorant, and a dousing of body powder may be all you need to get back to work looking as refreshed as you feel.

"You're not coming out of these short workouts soaking wet, so it's pretty easy to towel off and splash some cold water here and there and you're good to go," says Valency.

In-Office Fitness

If there's a gym at or near your workplace, that's probably your best bet for a lunchtime workout, since many have programs tailored to get you in and out quickly.

But what if the nearest gym is a 45-minute drive, or costs more than you can afford to spend on lunch? And supposing a rainstorm or heat wave precludes an outdoor walk or bike ride?

Experts say you can still get in a quickie workout, right in the office.

"If you have a private office and you can shut the door for 30 minutes, that's ideal," says Croze. "If not, try a ladies' room, an employee lounge, a conference room. All you really need is a few feet of space where you can do some exercises without disturbing anyone."

Here are some office-friendly moves that our experts say really work:

  1. Chair squats: Pull your chair away from the desk, then stand up and sit down in rapid succession as many times as you can.
  2. Leg stretch: Sitting on a chair, bring one leg up so that the ankle of one foot is resting on the opposite knee, then stretch and bend over 4-5 times. Repeat with the other leg.
  3. Wall push-ups: Stand facing a wall, with your arms up and palms touching the wall in front of you. Lean into the wall, then push yourself back to starting position.
  4. Chest stretch: Sit in your chair and stretch your arms wide out to the sides until your feel your chest start to rise. Bring arms back to center. Repeat five or six times.
  5. Knee bends: Still sitting in your chair, rapidly bring your knees as close to your chest as you can. Lower and repeat as many times as you can. You may need to hold onto the chair arms at first, but work toward using only the muscles in your abs and trunk to pull your knees up.

Most important: If you work at a computer, set up an on-screen reminder to tell you to get up and stretch once every hour.

Published August 25, 2006.

SOURCES: Craig Valency, American College of Sports Medicine-certified trainer, Bally Total Fitness, San Diego. Mari Croze, American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, Central Michigan State University Health and Fitness Facility, Mount Pleasant, Mich. Phil Tyne, director, Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center, Baylor Health Care System, Dallas.

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Last Editorial Review: 8/25/2006