There is nothing quite like buying a new swimsuit to motivate people to exercise. “Looking good is inspiration for many people, but even more important is improving your strength and cardiovascular health,” says Christina Jackson, exercise physiologist and fitness specialist at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.
In just 15 to 30 minutes a day, you can tone your muscles and lose weight with circuit training, which combines resistance and aerobic training. Doing “the circuit” simply means moving from one exercise to the next, with little rest in between to keep your heart rate up throughout the workout.
“Circuit training helps develop strength, endurance and coordination, and you get a full-body workout in a short period of time,” adds Christina.
All you need to get started is a pair of light dumbbells (between two and five pounds).
“Your goal should be at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week,” suggests Christina.
The following circuit-training routine can be done at home.
Before you start, warm up for 3 to 5 minutes by taking a brisk walk around the block, doing jumping jacks or walking up and down stairs.
Walking lunge with shoulder press
Start with feet hip-width apart and hold dumbbells above your shoulders. Engage your core muscles and take one big step with your right leg while lowering your left knee toward the floor. At the same time, bend your arms to 90 degrees. Then push back through your right heel to your starting position while fully extending your arms above your head without locking your elbows. Repeat and alternate legs 10–12 times.
Squat with biceps curl
Start with your feet hip-width apart and hold dumbbells at your sides with your palms forward. Engage your core muscles, ease your hips back and lower your body slowly while keeping your chest up. Continue bending at the knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position by pushing through your heels while curling the dumbbells toward your shoulder. Repeat 10–15 times.
Single-arm row and kick back
Lean over a chair or table and brace yourself with your left arm. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and raise your left leg to a horizontal position behind your body. Raise the dumbbell toward your body with your elbow pointing up while bringing your left knee toward your chest. Repeat 10–15 times and then switch sides.
Support your body on your knees and palms, with your arms straight and your hands a little wider than your shoulders. Engage your core muscles and lower your body slowly until your torso is just above the ground. Keeping your back straight, push your torso up until your arms are straight and you are back at the starting position. Repeat 10–15 times. Challenge yourself by starting on your toes instead of your knees.
Lie facedown with your elbows to your sides and your hands alongside your head, palms facing the ground. Engaging your core and leg muscles, raise your body from the floor, supporting your weight on your forearms and toes. Hold the plank for 20 seconds to one minute.
Go through this circuit once initially (about 15 minutes). As it gets easier, repeat the entire circuit (including the walk or jumping jacks) one or two more times. Cool down with some simple stretches and a walk around the block.