Paige Smith, a freelance health and lifestyle writer, editor and perpetual optimist from Southern California wrote for My Fitness Pal that committing to losing weight is a big enough challenge on its own, and even more challenging if you have a jam-packed schedule. You may think you need to block off a big chunk of time to hit the gym or cook meals from scratch, but that’s not the case. Even if you have just 20 minutes to spare, you can use that time to stay active, dial in your diet and make serious progress.
Try these five 20-minute activities to conquer your weight-loss goals.
1. DO A HIIT WORKOUT
If you only have 20 minutes a day to exercise, ACE-certified personal trainer Amanda Dalesays you should focus on HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. Add resistance by using weights, kettlebells or resistance bands.
“Working in high-intensity intervals burns fat faster than working at a steady-state intensity,” says Dale echoing many studies, “and the afterburn effect of working out at high intensity means you’ll burn more calories after the workout as well.”
2. STOCK UP ON HEALTHY STAPLES AT THE MARKET
A good grocery store haul can simplify your meal prep process and help you make smart food choices day in and day out.
Dietitian Kimberly Gomer, director of nutrition at Miami’s Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa,recommends buying whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible. “Stock up on fruits, veggies, whole grains [like] oatmeal, quinoa and brown rice, plant protein [such as] beans and lentils, egg whites, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and some salmon and chicken breast,” she says.
It’s also important to pick up easy, nutrient-rich snack foods to help manage your appetite throughout the day, according to dietitian Cara Harbstreet of Street Smart Nutrition. Think: fresh fruit, raw nuts and protein bars.
3. GO FOR A WALK AFTER LUNCH
Carve out an extra 20 minutes during your afternoon break to get moving. “Taking a walk after a meal won’t necessarily negate [your] calorie intake,” says Dale, “but it can [increase] the rate at which food moves through [your] stomach, resulting in lower blood sugar,” which, in turn, helps stabilize your appetite and reduce cravings.
4. PREP DINNER INGREDIENTS FOR THE WEEK
Planning your dinners in advance is a foolproof way to ensure you’re eating nutritious, satisfying meals each night. Harbstreet recommends preparing your main ingredients first, whether that means roasting veggies, cooking a batch of quinoa or making salad dressing. “Then, when it comes time to reheat and serve, I [just] add my favorite toppings, seasonings and spices so I can avoid boredom with the same foods,” she says. Check out our Beginners Guide to Meal Planning for more info.
5. ADD INTERVALS TO YOUR CARDIO
Your cardio workout doesn’t have to be a long slog to be effective, according to Dale. To get your heart rate up and simultaneously burn more fat, experiment with a progressive interval workout. “Instead of running 20 minutes at a 6.0 speed” for example, she says, “try running one minute at 9.0 and walking 30 seconds at 4.0, progressively adding 10 seconds to the running and recovery times until you’ve reached 20 minutes.” For more details, we recommend this short treadmill workout.