How to boost your fitness (and mood) in under 20 minutes

Feel happier in less time than it takes to watch a Netflix comedy!

Three Blue Sticky Blank Notes On Pink Background
(Image credit: Javier Zayas Photography)

'Variety is the spice of life' - that simple phrase highlights that we need variety to inspire creativity and motivation but it's easier said than done, as for most of us that's the very thing we’re missing. 

Lea Milligan, CEO of MQ Mental Health believes the best thing we can do right now is to keep moving and fuelling our bodies - and you can start by choosing the best workout clothes then get moving to boos your mood.

"Research shows that increasing your physical activity can help prevent mental health problems. In an analysis of several studies, people who had higher levels of activity were less likely to develop depression,” she explained.

Whilst even wearing the best gym leggings isn't going to help us smash our personal best any time soon, here are five ways you can break your daily cycle and keep your body going whether you want to dedicate two minutes or 20 to it…

2 minutes: Drink your vitamins

It's important to get the good stuff into our guts but if planning a healthy meal is far too time-consuming then drinking 500ml of Vita Coco coconut water will give you more than your entire daily dose of vitamin c in one go.

Tim Rees, Managing Director of Vita Coco, said: “We must remember how great it feels to be fuelling our bodies with a balanced diet - one that doesn’t just mean salads and carb-free foods. Our food and drink can taste good as well as being rich in vitamins and minerals.”  

3 minutes: Have a boogie

The novelty of the 5k challenge is a distant memory, but ideally, we still need to get our hearts beating faster and blood pumping quicker every day. And small switch-ups to your usual routine, like switching to sustainable activewear before your new virtual fitness class, will give you a little taste of that variety we’re missing to give us motivation.

You might be a disco queen or exclusively enjoy the soulful sounds of 90s RnB, but have you ever danced in your living room to country and western? Dance to one song you’d never usually think of listening to and let it all out, just for those three short minutes at least. 

Leading registered nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert explained, “Stress can be due to a multitude of factors and many people choose to adopt exercise as a way to help manage or alleviate feelings of stress. Exercise also has the added benefits of helping to support your physical and mental health, which in turn can help with a healthy immune system."

10 minutes: Head in the wrong direction

Getting lost can be stressful but changing your walking route doesn't have to be so daunting - simply do the walk in reverse (but we're not talking about literally walking backward).

When going out for your daily walk, even if it’s just a 10-minute stroll, walk in a completely different direction than you’d usually go and take in everything you can see (even if it’s not the most inspiring view!)

Oliver Sanchez, the founder of Nutrunity UK, explains the benefits of getting outside. He said: “Look up to the treetops and at the beauty of nature. Breathe in deeply. Looking up is a sign of optimism to the brain, so make a conscious effort to look ahead when walking and not constantly at your feet!”

15 minutes: Taste the rainbow

When you hear the phrase 'taste the rainbow' a packet of Skittles sweets might spring to mind but that's not what we mean. While it's easy to overload on comfort food and carbs, it's only good, nutritious food that will make us feel better.

If you really don’t have the motivation to cook anything extravagant, giving yourself a mini-challenge of cooking a 15-minute dish with a fruit or vegetable you wouldn’t usually use is a great way to get nutrient-rich foods into your diet and also mix things up a little! 

Rhiannon Lambert warned, “Our immune system is so diverse and nutrition plays a significant role, along with many other factors such as psychology and mindset. A well-balanced diet that encompasses all the food groups with a focus on incorporating wholegrains and good portions of plant-based foods is important for a healthy diet.”

20 minutes: Stretch it out

Instead of reaching out for your phone to scroll through social media over lunch, stretch your body out in every direction to leave you feeling mentally calm and your muscles relaxed.

Yoga is the perfect reset button for your mind, as well as your body, and a 20-minute flow can turn your day around completely.

Lea Milligan talks about the effect our obsession with the internet has on our mental health. “Spending hours scrolling through social media and reading bad news can increase activity in parts of the brain that contribute to anxiety while also decreasing activity in the parts that help us keep our emotions and stress levels in check,” he warned.

Here's the best time to exercise so what are you waiting for?

Selina Maycock

Selina is a Senior Entertainment Writer with more than 14 years of experience in newspapers and magazines. She currently looks after all things Entertainment for GoodtoKnow, Woman&Home and My Imperfect Life.

Before joining Future Publishing, Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism. She is fully NCTJ and NCE qualified and has 100wpm shorthand. Having spent the start of her career working on local newspapers and online, Selina spent six years as Acting News Editor and Entertainment Reporter at the Scunthorpe Telegraph where she dug into hard news stories, conducted interviews, covered court reporting, features, and entertainment, whilst going to gigs in her spare time.

Whilst at the paper she was awarded an O2 Media Judges' Special Award for helping a terminally ill cancer sufferer realise his dying wish and marry his childhood sweetheart through a successful newspaper campaign. Things like this are close to her heart when it comes to using journalism to make a positive difference in people's lives.

Selina later branched further into all things celebrity to became a Showbiz Writer at Heat magazine, covering red carpet events, showbiz parties, and various launches before going freelance for two years. One of her biggest celebrity achievements - aside from generating celebrity exclusives - was interviewing Take That (including Robbie Williams) and bumping into Simon Cowell so much at events she told him 'I'm calling you my showbiz dad!'

In 2017 she joined TI Media as a senior reporter on Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, Woman's Weekly celebrity desk before branching online in 2020 when Future gave her the opportunity to focus on digital-first.

When she's not interviewing celebrities you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories.