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Lunchtime Fitness Tips & Trends for Busy Execs

Finding time to work out can be a challenge, especially for busy executives. Discover the secret to a good lunchtime workout.


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A lunchtime workout sounds great in theory, but actually sticking to a consistent workout routine during the middle of the day can be difficult for anyone, let alone busy executives. We asked Brian King, who leads personal training consults for The Iowa Clinic’s executive health program, to share some of his best lunchtime fitness tips, trends and insights for business leaders.

What sort of exercises are most popular at lunchtime?

Going for a walk is still one of the more popular forms of lunchtime exercise, especially for busy executives who find themselves short on time. King says any movement is better than none.

“I believe in getting 45 minutes of outside stimulus every day,” King says. “So, if you sit at a desk all day, going for a walk is a break from your daily routine. You’re probably not going to drop 100 pounds, but you’re still going to feel some of those physical and mental health benefits.”

Meanwhile, lunchtime workouts at home are more popular than ever. During the pandemic, many people realized they could get in a good workout at home. This trend isn’t going away.

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“The major trend right now is still virtual exercise from home,” King says. “Peloton cycling classes remain a popular option for people looking to make time for guided lunchtime workouts. The new norm is streaming fitness programs from home, regardless of how you want to exercise.”

Trends aside, what exercises do you recommend?

“I’m a big fan of circuit training,” King says. “This is simplifying things a bit, but you want to target your three main upper body muscle groups and three main lower body muscle groups.”

King recommends planning out your workouts so they target different muscle groups on different days. And if you’re serious about getting into better shape, you’ll need to think beyond exercise.

“During my executive health personal training consults at The Iowa Clinic, I typically am approaching things from the perspective of the average person who wants to be healthier,” King says. “A lot of what you read online about fitness is extreme. In reality, most people can make progress by improving their water intake, protein intake and hitting daily movement goals.”

As far as the old debate of cardiovascular versus resistance training goes, the truth is, you should work to get in both types of exercise throughout the week to strengthen muscles and improve heart and lung health. King also recommends flexibility and yoga work for those looking for a lighter lunchtime workout, especially if you find yourself unable to fit in a shower after.

“45 minutes of low intensity yoga and mobility exercise still has benefits,” King says.

How long should a lunchtime workout be?

There is no perfect length of time for a lunchtime workout. A lot of it is going to depend on the type of exercise you are doing and the intensity level at which you are doing it.

“20 to 40 minutes is about right for most people,” King says. “And a lot of that depends on your workout intensity. If you really get after it for 20 minutes that can work. If you are someone who prefers to work out at a slower pace, then most people can get it done in 40 minutes.”

King notes that it’s important to be realistic about how long your afternoon workout is actually going to take. You may also need to factor in things like travel time and shower time.

“I often tell executives that if you want to do a lunchtime workout right, you likely have to think in terms of an hour and a half lunch versus an hour lunch,” King says. “You might travel 15 minutes to the gym, 15 minutes home, plus 10 minutes getting ready. That’s 40 minutes right there. If you find yourself feeling rushed all of the time, you may need to find a better time to work out.”

What about actually eating lunch? Isn’t that important?

Fueling your body is important during the workday, especially if you’re trying to fit in a lunchtime workout. Thankfully, with a little prep work, you can still find time to eat a healthy meal.

“Some people online are going to argue with me on this one, but I believe you actually want to consume a 4 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein,” King says. “You need carbs in your system to restart the energy cycle and help synthesize protein to recover muscle after a good workout.”

Examples of quick and easy lunchtime meals after working out, include:

  • Scrambled eggs, toast and fruit.
  • Grilled chicken breast, veggies and a sweet potato.
  • Fish, brown rice and veggies.

Those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets can substitute in plant-based protein options and still hit their protein goals. It’s good to mix up your sources of protein for a balanced diet.

King adds that meal replacement bars and shakes have come a long way in recent years and there are many options that give you the right balance of what your body needs. Just make sure to read the nutrition label. Look for whole food ingredients and watch out for added sugars.

Let’s talk hygiene. Any tips on mastering the mid-day refresh?

Most people are going to feel a lot more comfortable if they can make time for a shower before getting back to their office and sitting down at their desk. This is something that you’re going to have to factor into your lunchtime fitness routine, especially if you tend to sweat a lot.

“There’s not an easy solution for this one,” King says. “If you can handle working out and not taking a shower, then that’s your decision. There are some people who decide it’s better to save their higher intensity workouts for mornings or evenings due to a lack of clean up time.”

If you’re able to work remotely at least part-time in your role, then you may have an easier time fitting in a midday workout plus shower. As an added bonus, the combination of exercise plus a quick shower might actually make you more productive and energized in the afternoon.

How can someone turn lunchtime workouts into a habit?

“My biggest answer to that is just get started,” King says. “Whether it’s walking a mile or doing higher intensity interval training — it can be as simple or as complex as you want. The biggest thing is to start somewhere. And find someone who can help you, if you’ve been inactive.”

“Think of it like picking up golf,” King says. “Most people pick up a set of clubs and they start out terrible. The ones who improve the fastest find someone who can teach them the basics. It’s the same for exercise. Find someone who can train you to work out effectively on your own.”

King’s biggest recommendations for turning any workout into a habit are:

  • If you need education, consult a personal trainer or a knowledgeable friend. There are also lots of useful fitness resources available online to help you get started.
  • If you need motivation, set a goal for yourself. Something you can work towards.
  • If you need accountability, get a workout buddy or personal trainer.

“Start with something attainable,” King says. “Aim for 45 minutes of activity a day. Do you have a dog? Take the dog for a walk. Walk with the wife and kids. Keep it simple and start moving.”

Get proactive about your health with The Iowa Clinic.

“I’m a firm believer in proactive health,” King says. “That includes sticking to your recommended schedule for doctor visits. Making better food choices. And trying to stay active. I really like to see The Iowa Clinic’s proactive approach to health for everyone. That’s something I believe in.”

Struggling to find time to work out or even see the doctor? The Iowa Clinic’s executive health program helps business leaders like you get the most out of your annual checkup. You can also sign up for a personal training consult as part of our list of a la carte wellness options.

Call 515.875.9855 to request an appointment or access more information on our website.

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