I really feel sorry for the people that think they need to spend hours each week slaving away with boring cardio and aerobics routines to enhance endurance and burn fat. Not only are extended cardio sessions not necessary for fat loss, but they’re typically not even the most effective way to build endurance and performance.
That’s not to say they don’t have their place, but for people on a busy schedule, it’s all about getting the greatest results in the least amount of time. This means utilizing high intensity efforts done in short bursts like sprints and interval training.
Here are some of my favorite cardio routines for busy people:
If you only had 10 minutes to spare a week to exercise and could only do one thing, just do these. 10-20 minutes a week is all you need when done right, but it will be intense. Kettlebell swings (or dumbbell swings if you don’t have kettlebells) are one of the best exercises for a better butt and more athletic power. Aim for 75 total reps in a session. Rest around 60 seconds between sets. Do this 2-3 times a week.
Speed walking is a way to condition the body without letting it adapt to the workout. Many aerobics routines lose their effectiveness at burning fat as the body adapts to them, but speed walking is so inefficient (a good thing) that it continually challenges the body each workout. It is also low-impact for those with joint issues. The process is simple, walk as fast as you can for 15-20 minutes. Attempt to beat the distance covered next session. This can be more challenging than jogging when you really push yourself.
Similar to speed walking, set up a treadmill on a high incline and attempt to walk as fast as possible for 15-20 minutes. The incline really works the calves and glutes and makes this especially challenging without stressing the joints as much as running.
Sprints and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Sprints, including hill sprints, and other forms of high intensity interval training are a great way to condition the body. HIIT is intense, and need to be treated like any other form of intense exercise by getting adequate rest between sessions. A simple routine would be, after warming up, apply all out effort for 30 seconds such as an all out sprint or cycle. Then drop back to low intensity effort such as walking or slow cycling for 1:30. Repeat this for 4-6 total cycles done at most 3 times a week.
It may seem obvious, but not everyone thinks to take walk during a phone call or while listening to an audio book. Even if it’s just pacing around an office or room during a phone call set to speaker phone, this is a way to do something you’d normally be doing (talking on the phone) but adding in physical activity at the same time. Other examples could be biking to work while listening to an audio book to kill three birds with one stone. Get creative and you may be surprised to find there’s a lot of “extra” time you have during the day to be physically active.
These simple routines will really be all you need for your cardio. I suggest however finding something you enjoy and will stick with. If you hate using a treadmill, then do something else you enjoy. The biggest key is to keep yourself moving and train for your specific goals. For fat loss, the biggest thing will simply be eating properly, engaging in resistance training, and keeping your body active.