10 Best Quick Workouts When You Only Have 10 Minutes to Exercise

As a personal trainer and weight-loss coach, I am constantly answering health and fitness questions from my clients, on social media and in our Start TODAY Facebook group. In this column, I address some of the most common questions and roadblocks that trip people up on their journey to establish a health and fitness routine. 

I only have 10 minutes to exercise. What’s the best workout to do?

As a health and fitness coach, I work with clients who are strapped for time and fitting in a workout is often just another stressor on their to-do list. People assume that if they don’t have a lot of time, it’s not even worth it to squeeze in a workout. But I always encourage people to get in any movement they can — and yes, completing a short workout daily can be enough to maintain your health. By exercising for even just 10 minutes you can boost your physical fitness, energy and mood.

One study showed that a short 10-minute burst of activity can boost your brain power. Another study found that those who exercised for 10 minutes with one minute of high-intensity intervals saw the same improvement in insulin sensitivity and other markers of cardiometabolic health as those who exercised at a moderate pace for 45 minutes straight. So the research is convincing that just 10 minutes of movement can make a difference.

The next question is: If you only have a few minutes to exercise, what type of activity is best to do? And the answer depends on your goals and how you want to feel.

There are some common answers I hear when I ask my clients how they want to feel after their workout. Whether they want to relax, work up a solid sweat, or get out aggression, there’s a workout that will get them there with a few minutes of effort.

So check in with yourself and be honest about how you’re feeling and what your goals are for the day. Then, strategically choose the type of movement that will help you get there.

I want to feel strong

Workout: Full-body strength training

Grab a pair of dumbbells or use your bodyweight to run through some full-body exercises. Some of my favorites are squats, modified pushups, deadlifts and bent over rows. You can find a free full-body toning workout online or simply pick your own mix of exercises that engage all of the muscles in your body.

Work your entire body with 5-minute strength routine.

I want to calm down

Workout: Seated meditation and yoga

If you are having a stressful day and need to relax, meditation followed by a few simple yoga poses will help you reset in minutes. Start by doing a few minutes of a simple breathing meditation, breathing in through your nose for 4 counts, holding for 4 counts, and then out through your nose. After a few rounds of that, move into some spinal rotation like a seated twist and seated cat and cow.

Relax with this 5-minute guided meditation.

I want to build my core strength

Workout: Pilates

Get down on the ground and do 10 Pilates exercises for 60 seconds each. The Pilates 100, bridge pose, single leg straight stretch, and other popular Pilates moves will help you feel the burn in your abdominals and leave your core feeling tighter for the rest of the day.

Target your abs with this 10-minute Pilates workout.

I want to release tension

Workout: Yoga

Focusing on a quick standing yoga routine can help you elongate your front, back and side body so that you feel taller and looser. You can also opt for a 10-minute stretch to help relieve tension that creeps up in your neck, back and shoulders during the day.

De-stress while toning your muscles with this 10-minute yoga flow.

I want to tone my arms

Workout: Upper-body strength training

You’ll be surprised how quickly you can feel the burn when focusing on your upper body. Grab your dumbbells and perform a strength-training routine that includes bicep curls, overhead presses, tricep extensions, and pushups or modified pushups.

Sculpt your upper body using just your bodyweight with this 10-minute routine.

I want to get out aggression

Workout: Lower body strength training

Do you feel frustrated, annoyed or angry at the world? We all have those days. Try squatting it out — literally. Make your lower-body burn through squats, lunges, leg lifts and other exercises that work the biggest muscles in the body: the quads, hamstrings and glutes.

Try this 10-minute workout that targets your glutes.

I want to feel drenched in sweat

Workout: High-intensity cardio

Sometimes you just need a good sweat. Start with a quick two-minute warm up (like a light jog) and then do a few minutes of intervals like sprinting for one minutes, jogging for three, sprinting for another minute, and jogging for three. You can do this on the elliptical, running in place, on a spin bike or outside.

Get your heart rate up with this 10-minute cardio workout.

I want to boost my mood

Workout: Dance

I know, this sound silly at first, but turning on a few of your favorite songs and dancing around your house can do wonders for your mood. Not only are you getting a shot of feel-good dopamine from moving around, but you’re also likely bringing to mind feelings of nostalgia or happiness from hearing your favorite songs and moving to the beat of them. The calorie burn is an added bonus!

Try this fun, 10-minute dance cardio class.

I want to make progress toward my weight-loss goals

Workout: HIIT

High-intensity interval training is the most effective way to see progress in a short amount of time. Find a quick HIIT workout that alternates between strength training and cardio. The mix of high intensity and lower-intensity movement keeps your body guessing and is the best way to stoke your metabolism and get rid of stubborn and excess weight.

Torch calories with this 10-minute HIIT workout.

More of your questions, answered!

Is it better to lift heavier weights or do more reps?