WHEN Covid struck, our daily routines were thrown into turmoil as were our exercise habits.
Where once we fitted in a morning run before our commute or a gym class after clocking off, our workout regimes went out the window. Millions of us were not only forced to work from home but to work out from home, too.
A new survey by fitness company ClassPass reveals that midday has surpassed 5.30pm as the most popular time to get our sweat on, while Peloton has reported a 35% jump in lunchtime workouts.
And despite lockdown rules being due to ease further from tomorrow, many will still be working from home for the foreseeable – at least for some of the week. So what are the benefits of working out between 12pm and 2pm, and what are the best exercises to do? We talk to the experts to find out.
Beat The Slump
According to Niels Eék, psychologist and co-founder of mental wellness app Remente, lunchtime workouts can help combat the mid-afternoon slump, when focusing becomes harder.
“It’s all to do with our circadian rhythm, which regulates our sleep-wake cycle,” he says.
“A lunchtime workout can give you a hit of feel-good hormones dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin to see you through to bedtime.”
And that natural buzz can boost your mental health, too.
Mike Tanner, head of education and learning at wellness company Bodyism, says: “If you’re training at lunchtime, your blood glucose and oxygen levels are high post-workout, which feeds the brain so that you’re able to accomplish more for the rest of the day.”
Feel the burn
The benefits of a lunchtime sesh do not end there.
Swapping your usual tuna sarnie in front of the TV for a workout can help with losing weight too.
The bright light at this time of day sends a signal to the body’s internal clock, signalling it’s time to get active.
“That’s why a lunchtime HIIT class is likely to feel less strenuous than one first thing,” Niels explains.
“Particularly outdoor exercise, which has further benefits on mood.
“There is also evidence that early afternoon is the ideal time to work out, as the body’s calorie expenditure at this time is at its highest.
“This is again due to the body’s natural rhythms – peak times of day when your metabolic rate is burning more calories.”
Have a light snack, like a banana or apple with peanut butter, 45 minutes before you get physical, for a hit of energy, and refuel with a protein-filled lunch afterwards.
Chicken or fish and salad with lots of nuts and quinoa will help repair muscles and keep energy levels high.
Mix It Up
As gyms were shut for so long, the pandemic has forced us to get creative with our exercise. But the good news is, variety is key to success.
“The best lunchtime workout should change daily,” Mike says.
“Switching up exercises challenges new muscle groups and allows you to tune in to what you need.
“If workouts are enjoyable, adaptable to how we feel, and easy to fit in, we’re more likely to stick with them. For example, if you didn’t sleep well the night before, then a high-intensity workout won’t make you feel better.
“These are the days to opt for yoga or a long walk instead and save a circuit workout for when you’re more energised.”
Home Workout: Circuit 1
For days when you’re WFH, try Mike’s quick full-body circuit. Choose one or work up to both circuits, performing each twice.
If you’re back in the office, start this circuit sitting in your chair…
Walk for five minutes while imagining you’re late for an appointment.
Stand tall, enjoy the scenery and swing your arms. After five minutes, stop and do 10 super-slow squats for 10 seconds each.
Keeping it slow makes your muscles work for longer and increases the intensity without making your work clothes sweaty.
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Walk for five minutes at the same pace as before, but incorporate stairs if you can, two at a time if you want. Stop at a park bench.
Use the back of the bench to do 10 slow press-ups, the same speed as for the squats.
Repeat all of the above to total 30 minutes.