It often feels like there are not enough hours in the day, and it is easy to let things like exercise slide. Yet cardio exercise should be first on our to-do list because who doesn’t need the benefits: heart health, anti-aging benefits, and a boosted metabolism. Here are 10 cardiovascular, strength training and core element exercises that can be completed in just 20 minutes on even the busiest of days.
Full-Body Fitness in Just 20 Minutes
With Merrile Stroud
1. Reverse Lunges with Lateral Arm Raise (below)
Muscles used: Quads, hamstrings and shoulders
Use a light weight (2 to 4 lbs.) in each hand. Stand with feet slightly apart, arms at sides. Reach back with right leg into a lunge position while raising arms to shoulder level, being certain to keep left knee over left ankle. Step back to starting position and repeat with same leg for one minute. Repeat with left leg.
2. Surrenders (at right)
Muscles used: Every leg and backside muscle, core and shoulders
Start standing with feet hip-distance apart, arms raised straight over head holding light weights. Lower to left knee, then right knee; step up with left foot, then right foot, returning to standing position with arms continuously raised over head. Repeat 10 times with left foot leading, then 10 times with right leg leading.
3. Squat, Bicep Curl with Knee Lift (at right)
Muscles used: Glutes, quads, and biceps
Stand with feet hip-distance apart, arms at sides holding light weights. Squat, being sure to keep knees over ankles. Push rear end back, like sitting in a chair. Stand on left foot while raising your right knee with a bicep curl. Return to squat position, knee lift with arm curls using opposite knee. Repeat continuously for one minute.
4. Airplane (at right)
Muscles used: Glutes and core
Balance on right leg, with left leg extended behind, while looking at the floor. Arms are extended parallel to the ground. Try to hold this position for 45 to 60 seconds. Repeat with other leg.
5. Plank Burners (above)
Muscles used: Shoulders, back and core
Start in full plank position, being sure to keep shoulders over wrists. Bend right elbow, lowering it to the ground; follow with left elbow. Then straighten left elbow, followed by right elbow, returning to starting plank position. Repeat 10 times with right arm leading, then 10 times with left arm leading.
6. Modified Plank Alternating Foot Taps (below)
Muscles used: Core and hips
Start in modified plank position (on forearms) with feet hip-distance apart. Tap right toe out to right side, return to start. Tap left toe out to left side. Repeat cycle 10 times.
7. Push-ups or Modified Push-ups
Muscles used: Chest, back, deltoids, triceps and shoulders
Start face down on knees (modified) with arms extended, keeping shoulders over wrists. Lower body without touching the ground. Extend elbows to start position. Two sets of 12.
8. Squirms (below)
Muscles used: Obliques
Lie on back with legs bent and hip-distance apart. Arms are extended by sides. Raise shoulder blades off the floor. Reach left arm under left leg toward opposite ankle. Alternate with right arm under right leg toward opposite ankle. Repeat continuously for 45 to 60 seconds.
9. Full Plank with Opposite Knee to Elbow (at right)
Muscles used: Core and obliques
Start in full plank position. Bring right knee in toward left elbow. Return to full plank. Bring left knee toward right elbow. Repeat for 10 cycles.
10. Crunches with Legs Up, or Reach with Light Weights (above)
Muscles used: Abs
Lie on back, legs raised straight up, fingers behind head. Crunch by raising shoulder blades off the ground. For more challenge, reach for toes with hands, or add light hand weights. Lower back down. Repeat 20 to 40 times.
Merrile Stroud is married and has 4 daughters. She is a resident of Lookout Mountain and is a certified personal trainer and certified group fitness instructor. Merrile also holds a specialty certification in women’s health and fitness, and a specialty certification in disordered eating.