Lack of time is a common obstacle to working out. Getting to the gym and back can eat into the hour we might be able to set aside. Scheduled fitness classes don’t always fit into our busy days, especially when that means fighting traffic and still getting there early to claim enough space for a yoga mat.
You can still keep it tight even when time is tight, thanks to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio. "It involves quick, short bursts of intense exercise followed by short, sometimes active recovery periods,” says Washington, D.C.-based fitness coach Nadia Cherelle. HIIT can boost your heart rate to torch calories and speed your metabolism, while delivering similar or greater benefits than longer aerobic sessions in a much shorter amount of time.
“Regular cardio requires your heart rate to remain between 65 percent and 80 percent [of your maximum safe heart rate]. HIIT requires a heart rate of 80 percent or more in recurring intervals,” says certified personal trainer Martine McKinney, who is based in New York City. “Since HIIT requires such high intensity, it results in higher metabolic rate following your workout and the burning of more fat.”
Studies have shown that you can burn more fat while building muscle and improve your cardiovascular health and cholesterol profile more in just 15 minutes of HIIT than you can by running for an entire hour.
Hard Core at Home
“Sisters” asked these fitness pros for moves you can do at home that work your whole body and target your midsection. If you’d like to try this workout, get ready to sweat. It’s a good fit for regular exercisers who maintain a cardio routine. Consider checking in with your doctor before beginning any new fitness activity.
Pro tip: For some people, doing HIIT at night may make it harder to fall asleep. The good news is you can squeeze it in while your blender is getting that morning tropical turmeric smoothie ready. The moves below will give you a full body workout in 15 minutes, burning up to 150 calories. Bonus: You can do this all in the comfort of your living room without spending a dime on memberships, class fees, trainers or equipment.
Instructions: Do each exercise for 40 seconds, with 20 seconds of rest between sets. Build your way up to three sets of each over time.
This workout will be challenging at first even if you’re in good to excellent shape, says Cherelle. But don’t feel intimidated. You can begin by doing 30 or even 20 seconds of each exercise, and gradually build up to 40. I tried it, and while it seemed brutal at first, it gets easier. You got this!
A plank is a stationary position that will build muscle in your arms, shoulders and abs. With a plank jack, you get the added cardio element of jumping jacks, so you work your core and your heart at the same time.
How to do it: Get into a push-up position with your palms aligned directly beneath your shoulders and your legs straight with the weight on the balls of your feet. Start with both feet together. Without lifting or dropping your butt, jump your feet outward as wide as possible and then back together again. That’s one repetition.
This move targets the lower back, which is key to functional strength and crucial for everyday activities like standing up and having good posture. We often don’t give this region of our bodies a thought until we have lower back pain.
How to do it: Lie on your stomach with your legs and arms extended. Lift your legs and arms up a few inches off the ground, engage your core and hold for 5 seconds before lowering back down. Exhale as you lift, inhale as you lower.
Side Plank Hip Lifts
This move targets the abdominal obliques, which run from the lower half of the ribs down to the pelvis.
How to do it: Lie on your side and position yourself in a forearm plank, with your elbow lined up directly under your shoulder. Stack your legs so that they form a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Slowly lower your hips to the floor and then lift your hips up repeating this for 20 seconds. Then rotate to a side plank on the opposite side and repeat.
This sit-up variation targets the entire core.
How to do it: Sitting on the floor, bring your legs out with you heels lifted off the floor, lean back and tuck your knees into your chest. Find your balance and then begin twisting your torso side to side, tapping the ground on each side with your fingertips.
During an anaerobic exercise such as this, your body requires immediate energy. It relies on stored energy sources, rather than oxygen, to fuel itself. Burpees are also a great way to build muscle in your arms, shoulders and legs and tighten your core.
How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend forward at the waist until your hands are flat on the floor (bend your knees if necessary). Jump or step your feet back into a high plank, landing softly on the balls of your feet. Keep your back straight. Jump your feet forward so they land directly behind your hands. Stand up straight and reach your arms up. That’s one repetition.