Fitness Tips,  Health & Wellness

The Lunchtime HIIT Workout: How to Make it Work for You

As a busy nine-to-fiver, you already know how hard it is to fit anything into your work week besides work. So the idea of a lunchtime HIIT workout session might seem laughable to you at first. It doesn’t help that sometimes you need to run errands on your lunch or something unexpected comes up that prevents you from even taking a lunch hour.

I get it. But believe it or not, lunchtime workouts are not impossible! And with all the benefits, it’s worth considering adding a lunch hour workout into your weekly routine now and then.

Hear me out:

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Why is a lunchtime HIIT workout necessary?

How to add a lunchtime workout to your daily routineDon’t get me wrong, morning workouts are great because when you first wake up tends to be when your body’s energy levels are the highest. And you can start the day off with a killer post-workout calorie burn that will energize you for a productive day.

But there is something to be said for the lunchtime HIIT workout, particularly if you have a desk job. Science says that even if you exercise frequently, if you spend the whole day sitting on our tush, you are putting your overall health at risk. So a lunchtime workout is the perfect opportunity to get your heart rate up and stave off desk-related health issues.

A mid-day sweat sesh can also mitigate the dreaded afternoon energy slump you sometimes get around 2pm which helps you keep up the momentum on your productivity.

But considering you have a very small window of time to make it happen, you need to have a well thought-out game plan in place.

So let’s break it down and figure out how to make this work for you:


Where to workout can be tricky and some consideration must be given to the logistics. A gym is ideal. Your workplace is close enough to the gym if the travel time each way is no more than 10-12 minutes.

If your home is nearby, that is the next most logical option.

If the gym or your home is not an option, then we need to get a little more creative. Alternative workout spaces could include your office, or a nearby park.

Keep in mind, you don’t need a ton of space or equipment to have an effective workout. You just need a space big enough for an exercise mat. (Bmat is by far the best exercise mat I have ever owned! The Everyday version is lightweight and you will NOT slip, ever!)


High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT is by far the best type of exercise to do when you’re short on time. Even fifteen minutes of it can yield some serious results if you can squeeze it in a few times a week. Depending on your gender, size, weight, etc., you can burn up around 240-360 calories in a 20 minute HIIT session. Not only that, but you’ll continue to burn calories at a higher rate for hours after you stop exercising!

Now imagine you do a lunchtime HIIT workout three days a week at 300 calories each. That’s 900 calories a week, or 3600 a month – which works out to over a 1 pound of weight loss. Not too shabby for 20 minutes of your time!



Depending on what you have planned for the getting to, getting changed, and getting from, the duration of your workout could be anywhere from 20-25 minutes. It doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but you can easily make optimal use of this time with HIIT.

There are many versions of what a HIIT workout can look like, but one of the simplest ways to do it is to choose 5 or 6 exercises. Then set the timer on your phone to 6 minutes and  to cycle through them as many times as you can until the timer goes off.

Take a 1-2 minute break to rest, then repeat the circuit twice more.

The whole workout, with breaks and two minutes of stretching before and after, works out to 25 minutes.

If you only have 20 minutes, then just do two circuits.  

Example: HIIT Ab Workout

For some inspiration, here’s an example of an effective core lunchtime HIIT workout you can get done in that 20-25 minutes with no equipment but shoes and a mat.

I find that Core workouts are perfect to do at lunchtime because although they make you work hard, your heart rate does not get quite as high as it does on say, leg day. Which means less sweating, which means less likely to look like a tomato when you get back to your desk.

But trust me, you WILL be feeling this sucker of a circuit the next day! (Which is a good thing!)

  1. Cross-leg reverse crunch x 40

    Lie flat on your back with the knees bent, the feet flat on the floor. Cross one ankle over the top of your other knee. Bring your arms overhead. (A) Curl your pelvis towards your chest and lift your legs as close to your chest as possible while maintaining the cross-legged posture. (B)
  2. Russian twist x 30

    Lie on the floor with your lower back pressed against the floor and knees bent in the air and palms straight and glued. (A) Start making side crunches and keep the palms glued, start in the right side. (B) Do the same exercise in the opposite side. (C)
  3. V sit-up x 20

    Lie on the ground with your legs straight and feet together. Bring both arms overhead and rest them beside your ears. (A) Simultaneously, lift your legs and torso off the ground. Bring your arms forward and reach for your ankles as you balance on your hips. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position. (B)
  4. Alternating leg toe-tap x 30
    Lie face up, knees bent, feet hip width and flexed on the floor. Holding weights, bend elbows at 90 degrees and open out to sides of shoulders (avoid letting arms rest on the floor, arms should hover just above the ground). (A) Extend arms up and in line with the center of chest, hold one leg to the ceiling (B) Switch legs
  5. Mountain climbers x 60

    Begin in the top of a push-up position with hands directly beneath your shoulders. (A) Tighten your abs and bring one knee to the outside of the opposite arm, pausing for a moment before straightening the leg back behind you. Keep the leg elevated. (B) Repeat the movement with the other knee. (C)
  6. Repeat

What about lunch?

Lunch definitely needs to remain part of your lunch break, even more so because you’ve worked out and you need to replenish your energy. The ideal option is to bring a lunch with you that you can nosh on when you’re back at your desk, or while you’re on your way back to the office. A healthy, protein packed sandwich with an apple, for example.

But if you forgot to brown-bag it for some reason, all hope is not lost. The goal is to get as much protein that’s undergone as little processing as possible. Here are a couple of my favourite go-tos when I’m on the run:

  • Starbucks’ Protein Bistro Box with a tall, nonfat latte: 460 calories, 25 grams of protein
  • Panera Bread’s Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken: 560 calories, 31 grams of protein
  • Freshii’s Mediterranean Bowl: 510 calories, 17 grams of protein’

Again, try to stick to home-made lunches because you can better control the sodium and the quality of ingredients, but at least these options have some nutrients in them and will do in a pinch.

Final tips for making it work

In theory, this all sounds good and well, but I get that in practice it can be more complicated than that. Maybe your meeting runs over into your lunch hour, or something else comes up that prevents you from getting in your lunchtime HIIT workout.

Keep a snack or two in your desk like a larabar to eat mid morning so that you aren’t too hungry to work out.

Lastly, be flexible with your workout schedule and aim to work in 2-3 sessions for the week. You shouldn’t try to HIIT every day anyway because your body needs recovery days. Keep all your workout clothes in your car or at your desk so that it’s ready any time you are.

PS – If you need any more help putting together a lunchtime HIIT workout, check out this post on how to create your own workout builder for free!

Corrie Alexander is a former ISSA-certified personal trainer, home fitness advocate, and founder of The Fit Careerist. A proponent of personal growth and a self-proclaimed fitness app-junkie, Corrie shares tips and product reviews with the goal of helping others on their own fitness journey.

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