When you're stressful, adding an hour-long workout to the mix might make it even worse. But if you still want to move, a 15-minute cardio workout can be just what you need.
So many of us can benefit from a short and sweet workout, whether your fitness level is beginner or more advanced. “Light and fun exercise gives you the freedom to just move,” NASM-certified personal trainer Kila Duncan, founder of Purely Strong Fitness, tells SELF. “You don't have to think so much and you have the ability to just let go of what's going on in your life.” Sign us up!
Duncan created this heart-pumping cardio workout with light movement in mind. While it includes some typical strength moves, like push-ups and curtsy lunges, you'll get that cardio burst since your work periods will be roughly twice as long as your rest periods. And it's just one more example that shows you don't need typical steady-state cardio, like running or riding a bike, to bring on the benefits of that kind of workout. Along with delivering a rush of endorphins, cardio training can help reduce blood pressure and also improve cardiovascular function as a whole. If you're more advanced and want to up the intensity (hello, HIIT!) of this quick workout, try going all-out during your work periods.
Another benefit? This workout is super efficient if you're strapped for time, or simply don't want to spend all the time you do have working out. That's because the 15 minutes includes both your warm-up and your workout. Warm-ups are especially important for cardio workouts because they prime your muscles and reduce your chance of injury—plus, studies have shown that they can even boost your workout performance.
This warm-up, which hits your core, glutes, hamstrings, and shoulder muscles, is meant to “rev up your engine” without being too sweaty and strenuous while preparing you to continue on with your workout. If you have a few extra minutes, Duncan suggests adding a couple more of your favorite dynamic stretches—like high knees or lunges—to the warm-up for a bit of added mobility and strength.
Duncan especially loves this workout for active recovery days, as the easy movement can help ease muscle soreness without added strain. And for beginners, “When you move just a little bit every day—even 15 minutes—it can go such a long way for your body to be conditioned to take on more strenuous workouts,” she says.
If you have hip, knee, or ankle injuries, talk with your doctor before trying this workout. And for higher-impact moves like the frogger, we've incorporated lower-impact modifications. Ready to take on this fun, quick 15-minute cardio workout? Here's what you need to get started.
What you'll need: An exercise mat for extra cushioning.
- Glute bridge
- T-Spine windmill stretch
- Plank to downward dog tap
- Curtsy lunge to squat
- For the warm-up, you'll complete 5 reps of the frogger, 10 reps of the glute bridge, and 8 reps per side of the T-spine windmill stretch. Complete the circuit twice, taking breaks as needed.
- For the workout, you'll do three rounds of the three circuit exercises. For the first round, perform each exercise for 1 minute, taking a 30-second break in between each move. For round two, do each exercise for 45 seconds, breaking for 20 seconds in between each move. For the final round, perform each exercise for 30 seconds, taking a 15-second break in between each move.
Demoing the moves below are Delise Johnson (GIF 1), CEO and strength coach at Wellness and Weights; Shauna Harrison (GIF 2), a Bay Area–based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF; Caitlyn Seitz (GIF 3), a New York-based group fitness instructor and singer/songwriter; Cookie Janee (GIF 4), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Angie Coleman (GIF 5), a holistic wellness coach in Oakland; and Erica Gibbons (GIF 6), a California-based personal trainer and graduate student becoming licensed as a marriage and family therapist.
Fitness,Fitness / Workouts
The Positive Effects of Resistance Training on Anxiety and Depression
With anxiety and depression among U.S. adults becoming more and more common—anxiety disorders are the most prevalent psychiatric disorder—those who suffer from these disorders are seeking help with managing and alleviating the burden of their symptoms.
Most people are aware of the cognitive symptoms of anxiety, like apprehensive and worrisome thoughts and feelings, trouble concentrating, and irritability (or crushing existential dread in my case), but there are also physical symptoms. These include, but are not limited to, muscle soreness, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. Now mix in a dash of the depressive symptoms—as anxiety and depression often go hand in hand—and include depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, and weight fluctuation. Clearly, anxiety and depression have many symptoms that not only affect your mental health, but your physical health and fitness, and therefore your gym performance. But what if your physical fitness is the key to managing these symptoms?
Sometimes having to leave your house and make it to the gym is an unnecessary fitness hurdle. Putting together a home gym can help you stick to your exercise plan!
There is strong evidence showing that not only is physical activity protective against developing anxiety and depression, but physical activity can also help reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms in most sufferers. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses conducted by Brett Gordon, Ph.D., analyzed the results of studies done on the effects of regular exercise on trial participants with anxiety and depressive disorders. In most trials, participants received either a resistance training intervention or control conditions, and then their symptoms were observed. These reviews found that resistance training significantly improved both anxiety and depressive symptoms. By performing his own trial, Gordon also found that twice-weekly resistance training improved anxiety symptoms in both groups.
Although resistance training can help improve anxiety and depression, there are always exceptions to the research and what works for some may not work for all. Personally, though, I find that the focus that comes with a regular exercise regimen helps to alleviate my anxiety symptoms by distracting my mind and body from those intrusive, negative thoughts. Focusing on the things you can control, such as the training program you choose, your personal fitness goals, or any other positive influence that motivates you, can do a world of good for your health and mental well-being. Additionally, a program that can be done in the comfort of your own home, such as my personal favorite Home Body on BodyFit, can keep you moving forward on those days when going to the gym seems like an impossible task. It won't always be easy, but it will be worth it.
For resources regarding anxiety and depression, visit the website of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America: https://adaa.org/
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.