Even the most motivated people sometimes struggle to find time to exercise. We’re human beings, after all! We all get busy and have obligations, which can get in the way of our own needs if we let them.
In reality, though, we can’t pour from an empty cup, and if exercise is important to you, you can absolutely make it happen. Your workout doesn’t have to take up a ton of time — even 10 or 15 minutes can improve your physical and mental health.
So on days where a longer workout just isn’t going to happen, set aside 15 minutes in the afternoon to do this quick bodyweight circuit aka the best afternoon workout.
The Best Afternoon Workout For Busy Individuals
This workout consists of five exercises, which you’ll do for one minute each, and repeat three times through (or more, depending on how much time and energy you have). Here's it at a glance:
- Bodyweight squats
- Jumping jacks
- Walking lunges
- Plank up-downs
- Russian twists
1 Minute for each; Repeat x 3
1. Bodyweight Squats
Stand up straight with your legs hip-width apart. Squat down like you were going to sit in a chair, sending your butt backward and keeping your knees above your toes (you don’t want them to go so forward that they pass your toes). Return to standing position, squeezing your glutes at the top. Do this for one minute straight, taking your time with each rep — rushing can ruin your form!
2. Jumping Jacks (Or Mountain Climbers)
Time to get your heart rate up. Jumping jacks are a basic and effective cardiovascular exercise, but they are considered high impact, so if you have joint problems, you can do mountain climbers instead. Complete these at a pace that gets your heart pumping (like a jog would) and try to speed up after 30 seconds. I like to count how many reps I get in my first set, and try to beat that number in each subsequent set.
For jumping jacks, begin by standing with your knees slightly bent, hands resting on your thighs. Then, open your arms and legs out to the side, sending your arms above your head and legs wider than your shoulders. Return to your starting position, and repeat for 60 seconds, keeping your knees slightly bent all the while.
To do mountain climbers, start in a push-up position, with your hands a little wider than shoulder-distance apart. While engaging your core, bring one knee towards your chest, and then quickly return it to its starting position and draw the other knee forward. Do this continuously for 1 minute, taking care to land softly and minimize your body’s bounce.
3. Walking Lunges
Walking lunges are like static lunges—you just get less of a break and you don’t return to your starting position after each rep. Start by standing up straight with feet shoulder-width apart, hands on your hips or by your side. Step forward with your right leg, bending your knee so that your thigh is parallel to the floor and your knee is above your toe (like a static lunge). Then, without moving your right leg, step your left foot forward and bend your left knee so your thigh is parallel to the floor. You just did two walking lunges! Repeat this movement, alternating legs for 1 minute.
You can do this “walk” back and forth across a room, all around your house or apartment, or even outside on a lawn or sidewalk. Just make sure to keep your torso tall and stare straight ahead. To make it more challenging, you can hold dumbbells by your side or use both hands to hold a medicine ball at stomach level.
4. Plank Up-downs
One of my favorite exercises, a plank up-down is a movement where you start in a high plank, lower yourself to a forearm plank and return to an upright plank. It’s more advanced than a regular forearm plank, so I recommend starting with a forearm plank and mastering that before moving to this. (Pro tip: Replace this movement with a forearm plank if you don’t regularly do planks.)
For the up-down, start in a push-up position, arms fully extended. Lower your right elbow and forearm to the ground, and then your left. From this forearm plank, put your right hand on the ground, straightening your arm, and repeat with the left so you return to the high plank position. Do this continuously for 1 minute, keeping your core engaged, and your body in one straight line. Your butt will want to float towards the sky—don’t let it!
5. Russian Twists
And finally, a little more abdominal work. To do a Russian twist, sit on the floor with your feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Lean your upper body back so it’s at a 45-degree angle with the floor. From here, lift your feet off the floor and clasp your hands together in front of your chest while engaging your core. Rotate your arms to the right, and then rotate all the way to the left side (I like to tap the ground with my hands to make sure I’ve rotated all the way to that side). You want your back to stay straight and the rest of your body to stay still—you don’t want your legs flailing around as you twist. Repeat for one minute, picking up the pace with each set without compromising your form.
There you have it! A quick at-home workout you can do whenever you have 15 minutes. As I mentioned, no equipment is needed for this, but if you have dumbbells or a medicine ball at home, feel free to use them for the squats, lunges, and Russian twists! If you focus on proper form and push your pace when you can, three sets will feel hard, but if you want more, why not squeeze in another 5-minute set? The harder you work, the better you’ll feel.