Short bursts of exercise can be just as effective as one big workout, and become an easy part of your routine, writes Susan Edmunds.
Between work, looking after children, running the house and an ever-growing list of chores, it can be hard to find a regular, decent chunk of time to exercise. But fitness experts say that if you can snatch a couple of minutes several times during the day, you'll get most of the benefit of an extended workout.
Three sessions of 10 minutes expends the same amount of energy as a 30-minute workout. Several short workouts could actually be better than a long one, because they give your metabolism a kickstart every hour or so, to keep it firing throughout the day.
Personal trainer Corinne Austin agrees lots of little workouts burn the same number of calories as one big one. "If you're training for strength you're better off working out in one go, but even for strength you'll see improvements [when doing] bouts of five minutes."
Here are some exercises that you can incorporate into your day.
* Walk up and down a flight of stairs, or devise a short circuit that you could walk around easily to collect half an hour of walking throughout the day. Stepping and skipping are some of the most efficient ways to burn calories quickly.
* Opt for exercises that use the entire body, or as many muscle groups as possible, and include a bit of jumping around.
If you are more focused on muscle toning than a cardio workout, there are easy ways to work specific muscles groups when you've only got a couple of minutes.
While you're waiting for the toast to pop or the jug to boil, get in a couple of heel raises (lift up from the balls of your feet) while leaning lightly on the kitchen bench.
Do 10 sit-ups while you're waiting for the shower to warm up, or before you get into bed at night.
Push-ups are one of the best exercises to do if you only have a couple of minutes. They're good for the upper body, but when done correctly, work out the core as well. Do four minutes of push-ups - three sets of 10-15 with a break in between, and stretch afterwards.
Incorporate muscle work into your daily activities: do squats as you unload and load the dishwasher. Keep a dumbbell handy to the phone, and do 10 bicep curls on each arm whenever you're using it.
At work, you can give your thighs a work out every hour or so by pushing them together really tightly and pulsing at one-second intervals for about a minute.
For the abs, sit tall and tighten them, pulling your navel towards your spine. Hold and then release. Repeat the exercise 10 times every hour or so.By Susan Edmunds