Lunch Hour Workout (cont.)

For example, on days you plan to work out, make sure you've packed your gym bag with everything you need for the day, wear work clothes that make it easy for you to change, and bring a brown-bag lunch.

And don't forget that lunch-hour workouts don't have to take place at a gym. Bike riding, in-line skating, even walking to and from a restaurant can all count as a lunch-hour workout, Croze says.

Intensity Is Key

Whether you're lifting weights in a gym or walking to the deli, experts say the key to benefiting from a "quickie" workout is to work harder.

"What you're going for here is an accumulated effect, and it's not about the length of your workout, it's about the intensity -- that's what makes the difference," says Phil Tyne, director of the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center.

"Research has shown that even just 15 minutes of exercise can net you nearly the same effects as 60 minutes of working out, if you increase the intensity," adds Tyne, a former conditioning coach for the San Diego Chargers.

The overall trend in fitness is away from long aerobic sessions and toward shorter workouts, even when time isn't a factor, Valency says.

"If you do a short-burst, high-intensity workout, you also get a calorie burn that lasts after you finish working out, so it's also ideal if you want to lose weight," Valency tells WebMD.

And what kind of workout can you do at lunch? Just about any workout you could do at any other time, in an abbreviated form.

Some gyms offer noontime classes that are ideal for a lunch break. Or you could log 20-30 minutes on your favorite cardio machine, perhaps using an interval program for a higher-intensity workout. Weight lifters might work a different body part at each lunchtime session, or alternate strength-training days with cardio days.

Circuit training -- short bursts of resistance exercise using moderate weights and frequent repetitions, followed quickly by another burst of exercise targeting a different muscle group -- can give you a full-body workout in a hurry. (The popular Curves gyms use this approach). Or you could partner with a co-worker for a jog or power walk at a park near your workplace.

Fueling Up

While a lunch-hour workout is great, experts say don't forsake some face time with food in order to fit one in: "You body needs to be refueled and it's essential you do eat, so don't skip lunch in favor of exercise,"' says Valency.

You can do both if you follow a few simple rules. First, all our experts agreed that you should eat after, not before, your workout.

Also important: Go for a light, lower-fat lunch, which is easier to digest after activity. Croze also suggests brown-bagging your lunch on days you have a workout scheduled, to cut down on travel time to and from a restaurant.