Tips + Tricks: Joyfully Workout During Your Lunch Break

Key Points

  • Work out during your lunch break to gain more free time before and after work.

  • Having a detailed plan is key to enjoying afternoon exercise.

  • It’s possible to work out during your lunch break, freshen up afterward, and eat a nutritious meal.

Are you a devoted employee with absolutely no free time? Do you value every precious second of sleep in the morning? Do you prefer spending your evenings with loved ones and relaxing after long days? If so, you need to work out during your lunch break!

Whether you work from home or in-office, you don’t have to wrestle with your busy schedule for “you time” anymore. Learn how to work out during your lunch break by following the tips mentioned below.

What Is the Healthiest Time of Day To Exercise?

Everyone leads uniquely different lives, so a universally perfect time to work out doesn’t exist. Above all else, your physical activity should complement your behavior and integrate well with your current work and home environment. 

With that said, the healthiest time of day to exercise depends on your:

  • Energy levels

  • Internal motivation

  • Schedule: Is it flexible or strict? 

  • Fitness goals 

  • Type and intensity of workout activity

  • Competing responsibilities such as work, kids, romantic relationships, and finances

Woman in gym

Pursuing healthy weight loss? Morning workouts are best! You prime your body to burn fat. Exercising on an empty stomach forces your body to rely on fat reserves for energy instead of freshly consumed carbohydrates. 

Afternoon workouts are a close second. They’re ideal for building lean muscle. You already have food in your system that better fuels you to tackle high-intensity exercises. You last longer, go harder, and get more reps in! 

Adored by many in the fitness industry, evening workouts connect you with a fun community and let you blow off steam after a stressful day. 

However, health professionals warn that exercising too close to bedtime negatively affects your ability to fall asleep. Your heart rate, endorphins, and core body temperature all need “wind down” time to return to sleep-friendly levels. Avoid working out less than 90 minutes before lights out. 

Pro Tip: Squeezing in exercise wherever possible is always better than not exercising at all. However, sacrificing sleep to work out is counterintuitive because it impedes your physical results and harms your immune system. Prioritize your health as you incorporate fitness into your daily routine.

What Are the Benefits of Working Out During a Lunch Break?

Are you worried that lunch break workouts will feel like, well, more work? You don’t just crave time to decompress in the afternoon — you need it!

Plus, you enjoy kicking back with your work buddies at lunchtime. Your heart is in the right place, but your head hasn't considered the special perks of a lunch break workout. 

For starters, exercising at midday is a great time saver. It clears up free time for other activities, both morning and night. 

Afternoon workouts also increase your metabolism throughout the workday and motivate you to make healthier lifestyle choices. Whether you’re gearing up for a gym sesh or just returning from one, you’re way less likely to indulge in sugary treats, sodas, and junk foods. 

Midday workouts offer a much better “pick-me-up” than chugging an extra cup of coffee. Coffee is extremely hit or miss, while exercise is a guarantee to carry you through that dreaded afternoon slump. It instantly stimulates your brain and body, which improves your overall mood and productivity. 

Hate exercising during peak hours at the gym? Gyms and studios entertain smaller crowds at lunchtime. Most people delegate exercise for early mornings or late evenings. This means you get in and out of the gym fast. No need to worry about another gym goer hogging your favorite machine either. 

Since you’re in a 20 to 30-minute time crunch, you make your workouts more condensed and effective. You train harder and burn more calories because your glucose levels are naturally higher after breakfast, bringing your muscles to peak performance. 

Woman doing ab plank

Do any of these excuses ring a bell? You’re cranky when your morning alarm goes off, you’re exhausted after work, or urgent matters come up throughout the day. Thankfully, lunchtime workouts keep these scenarios from interfering with your ability to exercise. 

How Do You Exercise Over Lunch?

Jamming a quality workout, nutritious meal, round trip commute, and wardrobe change into one hour seems overwhelmingly ambitious at first. You’re on a very tight schedule, so it’s normal to feel frantic and frazzled until you hammer out the logistics. 

Check out these helpful tips for exercising during your lunch break:

Fuel Before and After

Working out while hungry is not okay. While fasted exercise benefits a small minority of fitness fanatics, results vary based on an individual’s fitness level, diet, lifestyle, health, and metabolism. For most, the downsides far outweigh the advantages.

Douglas Paddon-Jones, a muscle physiology researcher and professor of aging and health, warns, “You might feel tired and edgy, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely as you would have if you’d eaten something.” 

Low blood sugar makes you light-headed and lethargic. Activities also get more strenuous so you don’t enjoy them nearly as much.

Warning: Adults 55 and older are at greater risk of muscle loss, nutritional deficiencies, and negative changes in body composition when exercising on an empty stomach. 

Eating before and after exercise is a must.

Opt for a light, digestible snack that provides you with a fast burst of energy. 30 to 60 minutes before your workout, eat half a banana with one tablespoon of peanut butter, a hard-boiled egg, or a protein bar. 

Avoid foods high in fiber, fat, and protein as these take longer to digest. If you exercise too soon after eating, beware of gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, indigestion, heartburn, cramping, bloating, and upset stomach.

Girl doing workout exercise

Pack Your Lunch

Bringing a healthy meal to work is crucial to maximizing time — and minimizing stress — during your lunch break.

Invest in reusable glassware and fill it with your favorite foods. Pack a chicken caprese sandwich, cold protein pasta dish, or ground turkey with cheese lettuce wraps for a nutritious post-workout meal.

Out of groceries? Locate restaurants nearby that let you place orders ahead of time. Use their website or app to select a specific meal-pickup time. After exercising, stop by and grab your food on the way back to work. 

Schedule Your Workouts in Advance

On Sunday night, designate your workout spot (home, local gym, studio, park, or company fitness center). Look at your schedule for the week and choose days that are typically more relaxed in the office. If you have an important meeting or presentation immediately after your lunch hour, skip exercising that day.

Mark your calendar and treat your workout activity like a mandatory appointment. Need guidance while exercising alone? These fitness apps are extremely motivational:

  • Nike Training Club

  • Apple Fitness

  • Sweat by Kayla Itsines

  • Alo Moves

  • Train Fitness

Keep Your Gym Bag Fully Stocked

Fill your gym bag with sweat-wicking clothes, toiletries, sweat towels, earbuds, a water bottle, and a change of clothes for after. Pack everything the night before to save those precious morning minutes.

Pro Tip: Have multiple outfits on hand that work for different types of exercise activities. This saves your butt on so many levels: Your work buddy invites you to join them for a quick class; a post-lunch work meeting gets rescheduled; or you finish your morning assignments early. The possibilities are endless. Be prepared for them!

Plan Your Lunch Hour Minute-by-Minute

Pretend that your lunch hour starts at 11:00 AM and ends promptly at 12:00 PM. 

Here’s a sample schedule that shows you how to efficiently account for every minute:

  • 11:00 AM: Leave the office.

  • 11:05 AM: Arrive at the gym.

  • 11:06 AM: Change into your workout clothes.

  • 11:10 AM: Exercise.

  • 11:40 AM: Finish workout.

  • 11:41 AM: Freshen up and put on your work clothes.

  • 11:50 AM: Leave the gym.

  • 11:55 AM: Return to work and eat lunch.

  • 12:00 PM: Finish eating and resume work assignments. 

Doing workout routine

Within this schedule, there's a potential 5-minute window for stopping at a food place on the way back from the gym. This is only feasible if your work environment doesn’t mind you downing your last few bites after 12:00 PM. 

Adjust this schedule based on how long it takes you to commute, change clothes before, freshen up after, and consume your lunch meal. Unless you get a 1.5-hour lunch break (or you’re blessed with a super chill boss), don’t let your lunch workout exceed 30 minutes.

Be Transparent With Your Boss

Don’t set yourself up to get caught by your boss. Instead of trying to “sneak in” the gym sesh and stressfully rush back to your desk in time, just be transparent.

Respectfully let them know where you’ll be and offer to keep the line of communication open. If an emergency comes up, your boss and colleagues know how to reach you or where to find you.

As long as the nature of your role at work permits afternoon workouts, it’s perfectly fine to exercise at noon.

Work Always Comes First

Your mental and physical health are the most important aspects of your life. They directly impact your work performance. However, that’s not an excuse to let your workouts bleed into your designated work hours.

Lunchtime workouts are a luxury and secondary to your work responsibilities. If last-minute errands, assignments, appointments, or coworker collaborations arise, your afternoon exercise must take a backseat that day. 

How Do You Work Out On a Lunch Break Without a Shower?

Does the idea of being sticky and sweaty for the remainder of your workday make you cringe inwardly?

Middle school PE was traumatizing enough. 

You may not always have time for a post-workout shower, so use products that simulate that coveted shower smell.

After your sweat sesh, find a private changing room and completely undress. Bring a small trash bag to place your dirty gym clothes in. Use a dry hand towel to pat down your body. 

Life hack: Baby wipes aren’t just for babies. Use them to clean areas prone to body odor. Gently wipe your groin, underarms, feet, lower back, and neck. Wait a few seconds for your skin to dry. 

Work shoes and gym shoes

Apply a cream-based or rub-on deodorant. Liberally spritz perfume on all your pulse points (wrists, neck, and abdomen). Change back into your work attire or bring a fresh set of clothes for the second half of the day. Pack a change of socks and underwear too.

Does your hairline get greasy after exercise? Tuck a small bottle of dry shampoo into your gym bag. Spraying this on your roots absorbs excess oil from your scalp. For sweatier folks, plan for a hairstyle change. Try a half-up, half-down style or a voluminous ponytail. 

Always carry a small makeup bag with essentials for a quick touch-up. Lip balm, lip color, concealer, powder, and cream blush are all you need. Plus, they’re easy to apply in under five minutes. 

Pro Tip: Place a Bounce dryer sheet in your clothes bag while you exercise. When you get redressed, they smell refreshingly good!

Try This 30-Minute Lunch Workout!

If your primary goal is to burn fat, hopping on a treadmill or running outside for 30 minutes gets you there the quickest. If you need a fast full-body session, circuit training is your best bet.

This 30-minute afternoon workout is equipment-free and targets all the major muscle groups:

5-Minute Warmup 

  • Jog in place, 20 seconds

  • Jumping jacks, 20 seconds

  • Slow, controlled squats, 20 seconds

Repeat twice. Gently stretch your neck, arms, legs, and sides for two minutes.

Complete as many rounds as possible during each 5-minute circuit.

Circuit #1

  • 10 squats

  • 10 push-ups

  • 10 mountain climbers

  • 10 alternating lunges

Rest for one minute.

Circuit #2 

Use a towel and pull tight to create tension and resistance.

  • 10 bicep curls 

  • 10 narrow rows 

  • 10 overhead shoulder presses

  • 10 front raises

Rest for one minute.

Circuit #3

  • 15 leg raises

  • 15 sit-ups

  • 20 heel taps

  • 20 bicycles

Rest for one minute.

Grand Finale: Choose your absolute favorite circuit and repeat for five minutes. Rest for one minute and you’re finished!

Stretching before exercise

Lunchtime 2.0

Exercising on your lunch break allows you to reap the benefits of exercise without a major time commitment. No more interruptions, distractions, or needless sleep deprivation. 

It clears your mind, reduces stress, and lets you recharge.

Incorporate these time-saving tips into your weekly routine to make lunchtime workouts a vital and beloved part of your day! 

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