One of the reasons that many of us do not keep up with a fitness routine is lack of time.
If you are among the many Kenyans that paid for full-gym membership as part of New Year’s resolution but you’ve only shown up twice or three times this month, do not despair.
Studies show just 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise can keep you in shape, and reduce your risk of getting lifestyle diseases.
So, how do you replace the 30 minutes of sitting every day with 30 minutes of exercise that can transform your body, lower your blood pressure, and improve your physique?
And what are the most efficient exercises to make the best use of my time?
Fitness experts say the key to getting an effective workout in a short time is focusing on compound exercises. These include push-ups, deadlifts, lunges, and squats and use multiple muscle groups at the same time.
Because you are short on time, go for exercise that targets all the body muscles. You burn a lot more calories when you perform a full-body training session as opposed to just doing an arm day or shoulder day.
“Most people think that if they can only fit in 30 minutes of exercise it won’t be enough, compared to a 45-minute spin class or a one-hour yoga class. However, 30 minutes of exercise is more than enough time to get in a great full-body workout,” says Dennis Oloo, a freelance personal trainer.
Because you do not have the luxury of one or more hours of gym time, prepare for the exercise in advance.
“If you love running, keep your workout clothes nearby at all times, schedule your workouts like you schedule your meetings, and get up early. If you want to do weights and use gym equipment, join the most convenient gym possible. That is the first step to exercise within 30 minutes,” says Mr Oloo.
Faith Jemutai, a 27-year-old mother who is a student and works full-time, swears by the 30-minutes training regime.
The finance and insurance expert trains with Mr Oloo and says discipline is key.
“Working from 8 to 5, and with a family to take care of, discipline has been my guide all through. I started exercising in 2021 and in just six months, I saw my body change. I shed six kilos in just three months,” says Ms Jemutai.
Patricia Chebii, who desired to lose weight but has a tight work schedule at a construction company, also set aside 30 minutes for exercise and has so far lost 15 kilos.
“Battling blood pressure due to weight was the turning point. I couldn’t wait any longer for my condition to worsen, so I shared my story with a colleague and that’s how I started my workout. Ten months into my weightloss training; I was able to hit the great milestone,” she says.
For a majority of busy people, the challenge is exercising daily. Mr Oloo advises you should alternate the days to make your fitness routine manageable. Train on Mondays, take an off on Tuesdays, then again train on Wednesday.
“This cycle creates a simple pattern of rhythm and routine. The non-training days allow your body to recover, and for you to come back stronger the next day,” says Mr Oloo.
This routine would also work for those struggling with being consistent and getting bored easily. Do strength training on Mondays which involves exercises such as 100 push-ups, or 60 burpees with push-ups, then on Wednesday do indoor cycling for 30 minutes or rowing for 15 minutes and then 15 minutes of brisk walking on the treadmill.
You could also jog for 30 minutes then gradually increase the pace by adding sprinting.
On other days, combine them in the form of high-interval intensity training exercises, where you do intense workouts within short periods and then alternate with short periods of recovery.
These are very good for losing weight in a short time, toning and gaining muscle, regulating blood sugar, and improving your stamina.
Other 30 minutes exercises include:
Walking lunge and single-arm row
These are two exercises performed back-to-back before resting. When doing a superset, you will do twice as much work with two exercises, but you will save time since you are only resting once, if at all.
For superset 1, complete 10 to 12 reps per side of each exercise, going from one to the next without resting. After each round, rest for two to three minutes.
a) Walking lunge:
Walking lunges strengthen the leg muscles as well as the core, hips, and glutes. You can also make walking lunges more challenging by carrying weights or doing a walking lunge with a torso twist.
The single-arm row is a pulling exercise for your upper body that works the back muscles which tend to pile extra weight and fat and your biceps. It also improves the overall function of the shoulder joint.
“Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a moderate-weight dumbbell in your right hand with your arm at your side. Step forward about two feet with your left foot, and rest your left hand on your left quad. This is the starting position.”
Romanian deadlift and Arnold press
For Superset 2, complete 8 to 10 reps of the deadlift and 10 to 12 reps of the press, going from one to the next without resting. After each round, rest for two to three minutes. Complete two rounds total.
a) Romanian deadlift:
The Romanian deadlift helps improve posture because it “un-hunches” the shoulders by anchoring the large muscle down the back of your body.
The Romanian deadlift is a deadlift variation that uses the hip-hinge movement pattern to work your hamstrings and your glutes.
If you want to build a comprehensive shoulder workout routine, consider incorporating the Arnold press, a comprehensive exercise to build shoulder muscles.
Unlike other upper body exercises like the lateral raise, military press, and overhead press, the movement of an Arnold press activates all three of the deltoid muscles in your shoulder; the posterior, lateral, and anterior deltoids.
Suitcase carry and dead bug
For superset 3, complete 45 seconds on each side of the suitcase carry, and 10 to 12 reps per side of the dead bug, going from one to the next without resting. After each round, rest for two to three minutes. Complete two rounds total.
The suitcase carry involves holding a kettlebell by your side and walking while engaging your core (abdominal muscle) like you would if you were carrying a suitcase, hence the name.
Add it to your total body workout to help boost your overall strength.
The suitcase carry targets the muscles in your abdomen, shoulders, upper back, and arms while also working the lower body, specifically the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, and calves.
“Strengthening your core with the suitcase carry can help reduce back pain, improve balance, and assist with better flexion, extension, and rotation of your trunk. It’s also a useful move for improving grip strength and increasing shoulder stability,” Mr Oloo says.
Ms Jemutai says this is the one exercise that helped her most.
This is an excellent exercise for promoting core stability while improving your posture. “This exercise starts by lying on your back with your legs in a tabletop position,” says Mr Oloo.
“Keeping your back flat on the ground and keeping your core tight is important to avoid any strain on your back.” Since the dead bug exercise is performed on the floor, feel free to lay out an exercise mat for comfort, he adds.
A circuit is three or more exercises done in multiple rounds. Ms Chebii says this exercise has transformed the body. Not only is circuit training fun, but it also makes squeezing your cardio and resistance training into a single gym visit.
Justus Ngumi, a gym instructor at Raw Gym in Nairobi says as little as 30 minutes of exercise per day can boost your general health.
“Half an hour gym session can prevent stroke, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome, keep your heart and blood flow in check, and can also minimise your risk of diabetes,” he says.
Quick workouts also help ease depressive moods. If you have had a tough day, get sweaty.