Why you should hit the gym at lunch

Making time for exercise isn’t easy when you have a hectic work schedule. Going in the morning means losing sleep, and when you’re tired from a day at work, the last thing you want to do is head off to the gym for an evening workout. The solution is simple: Workout during your lunch hour and get the health benefits without the inconvenience.

There are plenty of perks to making a midday workout part of your routine, but you may have to make some adjustments in order to swing it. Check out this guide to learn how a lunch hour workout can improve your life and to learn tips for making it work.

Benefits of exercise during lunch

Maybe you look forward to a leisurely lunch every day at work. While that certainly has its appeal, it’s worth giving a try to a lunch break workout due to the many potential benefits. There are a lot of reasons that workers are exercising during their lunch break, but they all have one thing in common: They improve your quality of life. Check out these key benefits to hitting the gym at lunchtime.

  • No early mornings or late nights. When exercising during lunch, you free up the time before or after work when you would normally work out. No more early mornings of waking up to a 5 a.m. alarm or late evenings when you don’t get home until well past 7 p.m. Instead, you simply use the time when you’re already away from home to get your workout for the day done. It’s like earning extra free time to enjoy your friends, family, hobbies, and added sleep each and every day.
  • Smaller crowds. Even when you switch to a lunchtime workout, plenty of people are going to stick to their pre or post-work exercise schedule. You might even be surprised by how few people are using their lunch break to exercise. This works in your favor, though, since there are fewer people at the gym while you’re working out. It also means you can get in and get out quickly, without waiting for a weight machine or a shower to open up.
  • Less stress. Even if you love your job, there are likely times when you start to feel stressed out at work. Fortunately, a midday workout can work wonders in this area. Studies have shown that exercising can improve mental health and relieve stress and anxiety. Therefore, popping into the gym during your lunch hour could help you be more relaxed at work.
  • A real break. Many people stick around the office at lunch time. While it’s convenient to do so, this habit also makes it hard to disconnect from work and take a mental break. Leaving the office to go work out ensures that you get the break from work that you’re entitled to and have a chance to recharge during the workday.
  • Fewer junk food cravings. When you know that you’re going to be working out at lunchtime, you’ll be less likely to indulge in junk foods that will leave you feeling weighed down. And as you probably know, you’re not going to be as tempted by those same snacks when you return from an invigorating exercise session. In addition to keeping you fit, midday workouts can also be a great way to keep your diet on track, especially if you’re the type that tends to snack all day at work.
  • An efficient workout. When you’re on a tight schedule, your workouts are going to more efficient than ever. You’ll get in and get out without dilly-dallying, which means exercising takes up less of your time daily.

Exercise tips for lunch break workouts

As mentioned above, efficiency is a key part of a lunch hour workout. Part of making this exercise break work is being thoughtful about the types of exercise you’re actually doing. Beyond that, you’ll also need to have everything planned out to ensure that you are able to squeeze in a full workout, plus transportation and cleanup, within the allotted time frame. That’s a big change when you’re used to a more relaxed lunch hour, but it’s definitely doable. Here are some tips for making it work:

  • Find a gym that’s nearby. This is the most essential part of making a lunch break workout possible. You’ll have to get to and from the gym in a short period in order to still allow enough time for your exercise routine. Choose a gym that’s close enough for you to quickly walk, drive, or take public transportation (preferably within 5-10 minutes each way). If that’s simply not possible, consider what types of workouts you can do nearby without the need for a gym, like cycling, walking, or running.
  • Create a game plan. Because every minute of your lunch hour is precious, you’ll want to have a specific plan in place for what you’ll do each day at the gym. For ideas, look into high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT. This type of exercise involves short, timed bursts of cardio and strength training that increase metabolism and keeps you focused and on schedule. If you prefer a workout class, you could time your lunch break to line up with the gym class schedule. If you’re unable to get to a gym, you should still plan out your exercise, whether that’s mapping a course for your run or bike ride, or counting how many times you’ll walk around the office park.
  • Get used to quickie showers. If the thing that’s been holding you back from lunch break workouts is the idea of having to shower before you return to work, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Getting clean and fresh for the second half of the workday is completely possible—with the right techniques, that is. First, keep your shower to five minutes or less. Most people can get by without washing their hair; if it does feel a bit greasy, put your hair up or apply dry shampoo after your shower. For the ladies, use blotting papers to dab sweat and oil away and keep extra makeup on hand for touch-ups. Really, there’s no reason your post-workout primping should take any more than 10 minutes with this routine.

Eating when you work out at lunch

Besides the prospect of the post-workout shower, the one thing that keeps many people from trying a lunch hour workout is figuring out when to eat. Between transportation to and from the gym, changing in and out of workout gear, exercising, and showering afterward, you’ll likely use up most, if not all, of your lunch hour. But that doesn’t mean you have to go without lunch; in fact, you absolutely do need to eat in order to stay refueled after all that exercise. Here are some tips for creating a lunch routine when you’re working out on your lunch hour.

  • Pick up something at the gym. Many gyms today offer healthy snack bars and cafés for their members. If that’s an option, you may want to take advantage of the opportunity to quickly eat onsite before or after your workout.
  • Bring a smoothie. Protein-packed smoothies can double as a lunch when you make sure to include lots of filling, healthy ingredients. Load up your smoothie with fruit, greens, nut butters, yogurt, protein powders, or other nutritious ingredients, and enjoy a refreshing yet satisfying meal after your workout.
  • Eat at your desk. You might discover that eating at your desk while you work isn’t as difficult as you thought. Don’t pick anything that might take two hands to eat or will make you messy. Salads, pastas, soups, or finger food snacks (think veggies and dip) are all great options, since you can eat while still getting a bit of work done.

Hitting the gym at lunch can be a great way to maximize your time during the day. You’re already away from home for work, so why not get your workout out of the way while you’re at it? And since your lunch break is a structured part of your workday, you’ll be more likely to stick with this new exercise routine. Try to exercise during lunch to reap the many physical and mental health benefits of a midday workout.

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