If it's 6 p.m. and you're nowhere near the bottom of your workload, the last thing on your mind is the gym. Between the projects you have left and laundry waiting for you at home, an hour-long sweat session can seem pretty much impossible.
We hear you! So, can doing little things throughout the day—like walking home from work—give you the same benefits as a great workout?
Probably not, says celebrity trainer Brett Hoebel, creator of the 20 Minute Body and nutrition expert on The Biggest Loser. No matter what little things you do throughout the day, he says, they likely won't have the same type of impact as the work you'd do at the gym. That's not to say that youshouldn't walk to and from work, take the stairs, park in a far-away parking spot, do squats while you brush your teeth, or any of those little tricks you've heard a million times—they do provide health benefits. For example, one study from the University of Missouri found that standing can burn up to 60 calories more per hour than sitting. "Adding these simple activities can help stave off the one-to-two-pound weight gain most women accumulate every year—and it can keep your metabolism buzzing the way nature intended it to," says Jen Ator, C.S.C.S., Women's Health Fitness Director and author of Shape-Up Shortcuts. They also keep your body and mind on the exercise train, says Hoebel, which could prevent you from thinking that if you can miss one workout, you can miss two…or three…or, you know...
All that said, if you're worried about missed hours at the gym, there's a better solution than focusing on adding little bouts of physical activities to your day: It's to actually log a short workout. Even when you can't get to the gym, you can use the few spare minutes you do have to get in a super-effective sweat session. You see, brief, vigorous workouts rev your metabolism more effectively, burn more calories, improve the body's ability to control blood sugar, and lower blood pressure more than longer, less frequent sweat sessions, says Ator; plus, high-intensity exercise unleashes a flood of hormones like epinephrine, which helps your body burn calories even when you're not working out. Participants in a study out of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario who did short and fast workouts for 90 minutes a week total got just as fit as people who spent four hours and 30 minutes doing lower-intensity workouts over the course of a week.