Wellness

7 Lunchtime Workouts That Boost Your Energy In Just 30 Minutes

From home office to home gym.

Trainers' favorite 30-minute workouts will help you make the most of your lunch break.
AleksandarGeorgiev/E+/Getty Images

It can be easy for a full day to go by without looking up from your screen now that your house doubles as your office. So why not take a well-earned activity break between Zoom meetings to combat those WFH blues? All it takes is a 30-minute lunchtime workout for a boost of endorphins and movement that gets you away from your desk.

Scheduling a sweat sesh in the middle of your workday isn’t just a good break for your screen-tired eyes — it’s also a great way to counteract stiff joints from sitting hunched over your computer, says STEEZY Studio dance instructor Luis Cervantes. Science shows that exercising on the regular can also help relieve stress, improve your mood, support your immune system, and enhance your health overall — regardless of what time you do it.

The special perk of midday workouts, though? Exercising in the afternoon can give you the burst of energy you need to overcome an afternoon slump and finish your day strong — both literally and figuratively.

You don’t need a full hour to reap the benefits, either. Whether you’re a cardio interval devotee or you prefer gentler activity during your workday, check out these 30-minute lunchtime workouts from trainers to help you make the most of your breaks.

1. Core Circuits

You use your core for just about everything you do (yes, that includes sitting at your desk), so strengthening those muscles during your midday sweat sesh can benefit your activity all day long, says Cervantes. And it can be simple: Do each of the four core exercises below (or swap in your own ab-focused faves) for 40 seconds with a 15-second break in between. Repeat that sequence five times through, taking one minute to rest after each cycle. With all that core activation, you might notice yourself sitting a little taller after lunchtime.

- Bicycle crunches

- Oblique V-ups

- Reverse crunches

- Russian twists

2. Full-Body, No-Equipment Workout

Bande instructor Amanda Jenny’s lunchtime sweat sesh will challenge all your muscles, no equipment needed. Just cycle through each of the below exercises for one minute each, three times total with as little break time in between to build your strength and endurance in just 30 minutes. You can use weights or resistance bands if you want an added challenge, but bodyweight is all you need to feel the burn.

- Toe taps: Stand up tall, lift your legs straight in front of you one at a time and tap opposite hand to opposite foot. Attempt to kick your toes above belly-button height.

- Squat to knee lift: Take your hands behind your head, squat down, and as you lift pull one knee up towards your chest. Alternate legs each time.

- Sumo squat with a side bend: Hold low in your sumo squat, bring your hands to prayer, side bend to the right, lift center, side bend to the left, lift center.

- Plank to lunge: Start in a high plank. Step your right foot towards your right hand, hold for a quick stretch, and then step your right foot back to plank. Alternate sides.

- Down dog to plank

- Roll-up: Sit down with your legs long in front of you. Reach your arms straight forward in front of your shoulders. Slowly roll down to lie down on your back, slowly lift to come back to seated.

- Bicycle crunches

- Tricep dips

- Wide push-up

- Jumping jacks

3. Half-Hour HIIT

If you want the most bang for your fitness buck, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help you build strength and endurance quickly. This equipment-free circuit from Emma Middlebrook, certified trainer and owner of the inclusive gym REP Movement, is no exception. Pick 10 exercises from the list below, and do each for 45 to 60 seconds. Cycle through them all two or three times, and take breaks when you need it. Middlebrook also recommends starting off with a few minutes of warming up to awaken tight muscles and get your blood flowing after all that desk time — try arm circles, jogging in place, high knees, or another mobility exercise that will get you in the mood to sweat.

- Speed skaters

- Inchworms

- Push-ups

- Mountain climbers

- Plank hold

- Plank jacks

- Flutter kicks

- Bunny hops

- Jumping jacks

- Squat jumps

- Lunges

- High knees

- Supermans

- Sit-ups

- Russian twists

- Plyometric split squats

4. Treadmill HIIT

Feel like running away from your to-do list? If you have access to a treadmill, you might as well. This HIIT-style treadmill session from certified personal trainer and STRIDE run coach Victoria O’Neil is just the ticket for a quick-hitting, heart-pumping sweat. Don’t have a treadmill? Use the timer on your phone or watch to try these intervals outside to get your heart pumping.

- 2 minutes at 3-5 mph, 1% incline, easy intensity

- 2 minutes at 5-6 mph, 1% incline, moderate intensity

- 1 minute at 3-5 mph, 1% incline, easy intensity

- 1 minute at 5-6 mph, 5% incline, moderate intensity

- 1 minute at 3-5 mph, 1% incline, easy intensity

- 1 minute at 5-6.5 mph, 4% incline, moderate intensity

- 1 minute at 3-5 mph, 1% incline, easy intensity

- 1 minute at 5-8 mph, 3% incline, intense

- 1 minute at 3-5 mph, 1% incline, easy intensity

- 1 minute at 5-8 mph, 2% incline, intense

- 2 minutes at 3-5 mph, 1% incline, easy intensity

- 1 minute at 6-8+ mph, 1% incline, maximum effort

- 2 minutes at 3-5 mph, 1% incline, easy intensity

- 1 minute at 5-6.5 mph, 2% incline, moderate intensity

- 1 minute at 3-5 mph, 1% incline, easy intensity

- 1 minute at 5-6.5 mph, 3% incline, moderate intensity

- 1 minute at 3-5 mph, 1% incline, easy intensity

- 1 minute at 5-8 mph, 4% incline, intense

- 2 minutes at 3-5 mph, 1% incline, easy intensity

- 1 minute at 7-8+ mph, 5% incline, maximum effort

- 2 minutes at 3-5 mph, 1% incline, easy intensity

- 1 minute at 7-8+ mph, 5% incline, maximum effort

- 2 minutes at 3 mph, 1% incline, easy intensity

5. Dance Break

Need to blow off some steam come midday? Put on your dancing shoes, says Kristin Sudeikis, professional dancer and founder, CEO, and creative director of dance-based fitness platform FORWARD__Space. Pick five of your favorite songs (or however much playlist can fit into 30 minutes), and cycle through the below list of beginner-friendly dance moves to instantly boost your mood and release any workday tension.

- Warm-up: Alternate reaching your arms up to the ceiling for at least a minute. Gradually begin reaching further and shifting your weight from side to side to engage your core and upper back. Do this to the cadence of the music.

- 2nd song: Continue the arm reaches. Begin to reach across your middle to opposite sides of the room, with an option to add a hamstring curl on the opposite leg. Finish out the song with freestyle movement of your hips and shoulders in circular motions.

- 3rd song: Crunch your right knee and right arm towards each other for 4 counts of 8. Alternate sides. Finish the song with at least 24 squats done in rhythm to the music. Challenge: Do a set of jump squats at the very end.

- 4th song: Freestyle — you can do jumping jacks or even walk around your room, just be sure to keep moving.

- Cool down: Reach up to the sky, then exhale as you lower your arms. Repeat about 20 times. Side stretch on both sides. Widen your stance and reach down to stretch your hamstrings. Bend your knees and slowly roll up to standing.

6. Make Your Desk The Gym

If you’re back in the office already, fear not — STEEZY Studio dance instructor Jayen Wells has a workout that you can do right from your desk. This simple circuit will reawaken your body so that you can return to work refreshed, limber, and (relatively) not-sweaty. The best part? You can also do these exercises for just a few minutes at a time to squeeze in some activity throughout the workday.

- Do 12 desk chair squats. Slowly lower yourself down to your chair for 3 seconds. Take a seat, then squeeze your glutes to come back to a standing position.

- Do 12 desk push-ups. Using a stable table or desk place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders and straighten your arms and legs. Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the desk; pause, then push yourself back up. You can also do these on the floor.

- Do 12 desk chair tricep dips. You can also do these on the floor in reverse tabletop.

- Repeat until 30 minutes is up.

7. Custom Cardio & Strength HIIT

Can’t get enough HIIT? Then this DIY workout from David Robertson, certified instructor for CycleBar and Chicago Athletic Clubs, is the gift that keeps on giving. Pick six or seven of the below cardio and strength exercises, or swap in your own faves. Do each exercise for 45 seconds with 15 seconds of rest in between. Repeat the entire sequence four times. That plus a few minutes of dynamic warm-up and static cool-down stretches on either end is the recipe for a solid lunchtime HIIT sesh.

- High knees

- Burpees

- Lunges

- Jump squats

- Side-to-side hops

- Single-leg deadlifts

- Weighted squats

- Tricep dips

- Bicycle crunches

- Plank rows

Studies referenced:

Warburton, D. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian Medical Association Journal, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1402378/

Experts:

Luis Cervantes, a dance instructor at STEEZY Studio

Amanda Jenny, instructor at digital fitness platform bande

Emma Middlebrook, NSCA-certified personal trainer and owner of REP Movement, a body-positive, antiracist, pro-queer gym in Portland

Victoria O’Neil, NASM-certified personal trainer and STRIDE run coach

David Robertson, certified instructor for CycleBar and Chicago Athletic Clubs

Kristin Sudeikis, founder, CEO, and creative director of dance-based fitness platform FORWARD__Space and professional dancer and choreographer

Jayen Wells, a dance instructor at STEEZY Studio