By Lisa Champion

We all struggle to elbow aside other commitments and make time for exercise. But here’s a slot you may have rejected as being too much of a hassle (the wayward hair, the change of clothes and the extra deodorant): your lunch hour.

You get the most bang for your workout buck if you exercise when you’re free from distractions. Lunchtime fits the bill perfectly. It’s a neat 45 minutes to fill with whatever you want to do. Make it all about you and about feeling as great as you can.

Once you get past the logistical challenge of jumping in and out of your trainers, you’ll feel so much better, and your afternoon energy levels will soar.

Try these midday moves:

Blast fat

Do: a 20-minute interval workout
Research shows that doing short bursts of intense exercise is the most effective way to burn fat. Here’s the formula I like best: 8 seconds of full intensity, followed by 12 seconds of ‘rest’ (not stopping—just going slower!). Repeat this for 20 minutes, and you’ll feel as though you’ve exercised for much longer. Try the routine on a spin bike or treadmill at the gym, or do a combination of walking, jogging and outdoor stair climbing.

Boost your brain

Do: a mini-circuit— a combo of cardio and toning
Offset the postural effects of sitting at a desk all day by putting together a few challenging moves. These can include squats, lunges, push-ups and tricep dips—blended with strategic stretching (think upper back, hip flexors, quads, hamstrings and calves). For each of the four exercises, do 3 sets of 10 to 20 repetitions (use perfect form as a guide—if you lose it, stop!) and stretch in between each set. Hold each stretch for 5 deep breaths. Try this workout in a park or an empty conference room.

Take a mental break from work

Do: a 30-minute dance class
Lots of fitness centres offer shorter classes at lunchtime. Fun activities, such as pole dancing and Zumba, firm, tone and boost your blood flow (all while the lively, upbeat dance routines entertain your brain). Another couple of bonuses: these dance classes give you a total-body workout, plus they’re just the thing to lift your mood for the rest of the day—and into the evening.

Shake off stress

Do: yoga or pilates
These disciplines centre on breathing, stretching and cultivating mindfulness, which makes them top bets for clearing your head and making you feel calm, relaxed and focused. Find these classes at a fitness centre or studio; if there isn’t one nearby, buy or rent a DVD and do a session in that empty conference room. You might even find a few office colleagues to join in (group fitness boosts individual motivation!).

Your hassle-free hour

To make your lunchtime workout as easy as possible, fill a gym bag with go-anywhere shoes, socks, stretchy pants and a comfy top, and keep it under your desk. Sometimes it’s our attitude alone that stands in the way of our moving more. Even a 10-minute walk will make you feel revived, refreshed and ready to take on your afternoon projects. Your body will love you for it.

Lisa Champion is a fitness professional and exercise therapist with more than 20 years’ experience. She’s passionate about helping her clients discover a better connection with their bodies.

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