Lots of women find it hard to stick with a consistent cardio and weight training routine. After all, when do you find time to exercise between a busy career, a bustling social life and family demands? It doesn't have to be hard and it doesn't have to take up all your time. You might be surprised that spending hours in the gym isn't necessary for good health or a physique you'll be proud to show off.
Knowing how much exercise you need is a good starting point for creating a routine that works for you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adult women get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. If that sounds like a lot, break it down and you'll see that it's only 2 1/2 hours. In addition, MayoClinic.com calls two or three 20- to 30-minute strength training sessions enough for most women to maintain health and weight. You might not hit that goal every week, but doing so most of the time is adequate for keeping you at a healthy weight and preventing health problems.
No, you don't have to be a regular in the local gym's weight room or class schedule rotation, unless you choose to. Going to the gym gives you a wide range of equipment to incorporate into your routine. However, if like many women, working out at home is more conducive to your schedule, a few pieces of equipment help you get a good workout right in your own house. A set of dumbbells or kettlebells, an exercise ball, a jumprope, fitness DVDs, an exercise mat and a pair of running shoes are good choices. If you have space, a treadmill, elliptical or stepper are additional items to add to your arsenal, but don't underestimate the benefit of a simple walk around the block either.
You don't have to try to fit in all your exercise time in a couple of big chunks. In fact, spreading your cardio out through the week keeps your metabolism going and makes it more likely that you'll stick with the program. Include one 30-minute workout, five days per week. Or, try for three 10-minute sessions during the day. Hop on the treadmill in the morning, take a walk on your lunch break and hit the pool for quick swim after dinner. Even these short bouts of exercise offer health benefits and don't require a mass rearranging of your schedule to make sure it gets done.
For most women, particularly if you're just starting an exercise routine, one set of 12 repetitions of each exercise is enough to produce results in a few weeks. This gives you time to work each of your major muscle groups during each strength training session. On two or three days of the week, when you have more time perhaps, include strength training in your workout. You only need 20 to 30 minutes. Try doing your routine while you watch your favorite television show or bust it out while you wait for dinner to cook. Make sure to take a day of rest between weight training sessions, which allows your muscles time to repair and recover.
- Sean Murphy/Lifesize/Getty Images