How to Reap the Benefits of a Lunchtime Workout

Exercise to transform a short break into long term gains.

Happy young office worker with yoga mat.

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Want to look healthier, feel healthier and have a healthier body? Adding exercise into your weekly schedule can have significant mental and physical pay-offs. 

The benefits of working out on a regular basis are widely known. But finding the time to reap these rewards may not be so simple for busy professionals. If you find yourself too tired to hit the gym at the end of a long, productive day at work, and you keep hitting that snooze button and missing the sunrise jog, consider utilizing your lunch break to make those health commitments a reality.

Can exercise improve your work performance?

A midday workout is ideal for professionals without a lot of time on their hands because getting moving can actually improve work performance and make you more focused. Move It Monday lists some of the benefits of afternoon cardio.

Exercise improves memory and mood. Studies show that working out can help with concentration and learning, making you a faster and more efficient worker post-workout. Additionally, exercise can lower stress; so if your work is fast-paced or hectic, that midday hike or yoga session can send you back to the office geared up to handle whatever the rest of the workday throws at you.

Group of people practicing yoga asanas to improve physical and mental endurance.

(fizkes /

The home office

Well+Good reports on a side effect of Covid closures. When people started working from home, midday exercises became much easier for some professionals. Lunchtime actually became the most popular time for working out. 

If you are able to work from home even a few days a week, you’ve already solved the first challenge to getting moving on your lunch break – finding an appropriate workout space. 

Yoga is a great choice if you want to clear your mind and return to work, post-lunch, revitalized and relaxed. Studio booking service ClassPass explained in a trend’s report from 2020 that “the ancient fitness modality [yoga] has been found to mitigate stress and quite literally strip away self-imposed limitations to leave you with a clear and motivated mindset.”

If you crave that “motivated mindset” to prepare yourself for an afternoon presentation or the 3 am meeting that just won’t end, check out The Well+Good article above offers yoga routines that are short enough to incorporate into a 30 minute lunch break. 

When you are stuck in the office, however, try this video for a quick de-stressing yoga routine that you can do from your desk. No gym necessary.

Woman doing yoga at her home office desk.

(fizkes /

Hit the gym 

An alternative to the home office workout is finding a gym or an exercise class near work. The Independent shares tips for fitting walking (or riding) to the gym, working out, showering, eating lunch, and returning to the office into the hour between meetings. 

Fitting it all in means efficiency, so pre-planning is a must. Not only does scheduling in advance help you stay motivated and keep up with your gym commitment, it also ensures that you are prepared with the gear you need. 

The Independent suggests packing a healthy lunch the night before to save time waiting in the takeout line. In addition, making sure your gym bag is prepped and ready to go the night before gives you one less excuse to miss out on your lunchtime workout.

The type of workout you do matters as well. A short Varied Intensity Interval Training (VIIT) session incorporates strength and endurance and targets all the major muscle groups.

The Independent article above includes an example of a 30 minute VIIT, perfect for a short lunch break.

Woman doing push ups in the gym.

(antoniodiaz /

Take a hike

A brisk walk is a good alternative to the at-home or gym lunchtime workout. Very Well Fit cites a 2015 study demonstrating that lunchtime walkers are more relaxed and healthier. 30 minutes of brisk walking can burn up to 200 calories!

If you want to maximize the health benefits of a midday stroll, Very Well Fit suggests planning out the route in advance, (you can mix up the route from day to day to prevent boredom), bringing your sneakers to work, and looking for a colleague to become your walking buddy.

For a brisk walk, start at a comfortably slow pace to warm up. Five minutes in, switch it up to a faster tempo. Try to keep your heart rate elevated to 50% to 70% your maximum heart rate for 10-15 minutes. 

You can also mix it up by varying the intensity by intervals. Or go slow and enjoy the mental health benefits of getting in fresh air and a pleasant stroll to break up a long day of work.

Whether you find a gym near work, make the city your gym, or exercise at home, working out at work can make you happier, healthier, and more productive.

Woman walking briskly on a track listening to music.

(Focus and Blur /