You’ve got only 20 minutes free to hit the gym. Should you even bother going?
Absolutely! In fact, I have found 20 minutes to be the ideal workout length. I personally makes it a point to fit such “express” workouts into my days spent practicing medicine, and I encourage patients to follow suit to stay healthy, without burnout.
The 20-minute workout is a habit I started many years ago. During medical school, when I was under pressure and didn’t have a lot of time, I learned that if I just went to the gym for 20 minutes, and got my weights and cardio in, it was totally doable. And it was more useful than a longer workout because I had time to complete it consistently.
In addition, although I’ve tried various fitness routines over the years, I always return to the practice of yoga for its focus on finding moments of calm through deep, slow breathing. I especially enjoy aerial yoga, a form of assisted yoga with hammocks and silks.
When the COVID-19 lockdown temporarily forced the suspension of gym and fitness center activities, I migrated online by following Yoga With Adriene, a popular instructor on YouTube. Adriene’s 30-day yoga challenges, often done in 15- or 20-minute sessions, complemented my approach of fast, feasible workouts.
Like many people, I have back issues, which means that I’m not the most flexible. But I love how yoga makes me feel relaxed and ready to take on the day.
In fact, I have incorporated the breathwork practiced on the yoga mat into my visits with patients, who can come into my office carrying a lot of anxiety and stress. When I ask them to take a breath while listening to their lungs, I can hear the tightness in their chest. And their blood pressure tends to increase in the office — a phenomenon known as white-coat hypertension, which is common among those I treat. For many patients, slow breathing for two minutes helps bring their blood pressure down.
Again, rather than give up on exercising when you find yourself pressed for time, consider these healthy alternatives. The best way to stick with any fitness routine is to make sure it fits into your schedule. If the prospect of spending an hour-plus at the gym feels daunting or downright impossible, don’t do it. Anything you can tackle in small increments or tiny bites is your best bet.
Dr. Douglas J. Hart is Director of Echocardiography at White Plains Hospital. He specializes in cardiovascular disease, echocardiography, and nuclear cardiology. For an appointment, call 914-849-4800.