Besides controlling weight and improving your appearance, regular exercise also decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, improves your sex life, and helps you to fall asleep faster and experience a deeper level of sleep. In addition, Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and author of The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, describes exercise as the best thing you can do for your mood, memory, and ability to learn. It reduces the harmful effects of stress, is as effective as an antidepressant for relieving symptoms of depression, and helps to sharpen your brain. Dr. Ratey says that even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain, which is good news for busy people who may be concerned that brief exercise periods aren't producing worthwhile results.

Short and Sweet
A study by the National Health Research Institutes in Taiwan found that moderately intensive exercise--which includes walking briskly--performed 15 minutes a day provides significant health benefits. The study concluded that 15 minutes of exercise a day could increase life expectancy by 2.5 to three years.

In another study at the University of Virginia, exercise physiologist Glenn Gaesser observed subjects who performed fifteen 10-minute exercise routines a week. After three weeks, the aerobic fitness levels of the test subjects were comparable to those of someone 10 to 15 years younger. Their levels of flexibility and strength were comparable to someone 20 years younger.

Lunch Hour Exercises
Typically, a lunch hour doesn't provide a lot of time for exercise, especially if you have to shower and change, or eat during this time frame. However, there are numerous ways to utilize your lunch break to maximize your exercise potential. Even if you don't have access to a gym, you can do these simple yet effective exercises that don't require equipment:

  • Doing five to 10 minutes of jumping jacks in the building's parking lot or outdoor area is a great way to exercise. In just one 10-minute session, a woman weighing 68 kilograms can burn 90 calories
  • Climbing the stairs on your lunch break is also a great way to exercise. Fitday.com calculates that a 61 kilograms woman can burn 200 calories in 30 minutes of stair climbing
  • Walking around the building or the parking lot at a moderately strenuous pace is another alternative. Using a pedometer to measure your steps will help motivate you to keep walking
  • If you dine out on your lunch break, take the longest route to the restaurant so you can squeeze in more walking time
  • If you don't like to exercise alone, enlist coworkers to join you. This will also add accountability on those days when you may not want to exercise

Other Exercises to Do at Work
Transform your sedentary workplace into a calorie-burning, exercise-conducive environment:

  • Instead of phone calls and email, walk around the office to ask questions in person
  • When you're standing at the copier or waiting on the elevator, do simple stand-in-place exercises
  • Since you burn more calories when standing than sitting, stand up when you're talking on the phone
  • Instead of parking in your usual spot, move your car to the far end of the parking lot and briskly walk to and from the building
  • Keep resistance bands and light weights in your desk drawer. You can exercise your hand and arm muscles when you're on the phone

Exercises to Perform at Home
You can turn routine household chores into opportunities to squeeze in more exercise. For example:

  • Hand wash your car instead of taking it to the car wash
  • Bring in the groceries from your car one bag at a time so you have to make several trips
  • Instead of carrying the entire laundered basket of clothes, carry only a few items at a time, which will force you to take more steps
  • When you go outside to get your mail or the newspaper, briskly walk up and down the street two or three times

Even though you may have a hectic schedule, even a few minutes of exercise each day can provide appreciable benefits. By maximizing your lunch hours, arrival and departure times, and routine tasks, you can include physical activity in your normal routine with minimal effort and reach your fitness goals without sacrificing a large amount of time.