Who needs to work out every day when you can reap the benefits of exercise with a four-day routine? You'll be exercising most days of the week but still have plenty of time left over for work and play -- pretty sweet deal. And with exercise, you can expect a tighter body as well as reduced risk of serious illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and even some cancers.
Three-hundred minutes of moderate cardio per week is ideal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Following this guideline, one routine option is to perform one hour and 15 minutes of cardio per day, four days a week. Moderate aerobic activities include fast walking, cycling on even ground and playing doubles tennis. Choose whichever cardio exercise is fun for you -- you'll be more likely to stick to your commitment.
For Busy Schedules
If your schedule is just too hectic to slip in an hour for yourself, you'll need a different routine. Schedule three smaller chunks throughout each workout day: one 15-minute session, one 25-minute session and one 35-minute session. For variety, you can even switch up your activities. You might take a quick jog in the morning, climb up and down stairs on your lunch break, and take the kids swimming after work. Do this four days a week to conveniently meet your cardio needs.
Women tend to focus on cardio while ignoring strength training. However, muscle-building activities are an important part of any exercise plan, and women don't pack on muscle tissue the same way as men, so there's no reason to worry about growing bulky. Do exercises like pushups, lunges, squats, leg lifts and crunches at home, or use the weight machines at the gym. On day one, focus on your chest and triceps. Day two, work your back and biceps. Day three, strengthen your abs, calves and shoulders and on day four, target your thigh muscles.
If weight loss is one of your exercise goals, don't forget about nutrition. It may not seem fair, but you can kill yourself at the gym every day and not lose an ounce if you stuff yourself with fast food after every workout. To lose 1 pound a week, eat 500 fewer calories than you burn each day, based on your basal metabolic rate and daily activities. It sounds tough, but you can achieve this painlessly by choosing low-calorie foods packed with filling protein and fiber -- leafy greens, apples, nonfat cottage cheese and air-popped popcorn, for example. Keep a food journal to stay accountable and track your calories, even on non-workout days.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.