5 Easy Ways to Lose Weight, 20 Minutes at a Time

by Paige Smith
Share it:
5 Easy Ways to Lose Weight, 20 Minutes at a Time

Committing to losing weight is a big enough challenge on its own, and even more challenging if you have a jam-packed schedule. You may think you need to block off a big chunk of time to hit the gym or cook meals from scratch, but that’s not the case. Even if you have just 20 minutes to spare, you can use that time to stay active, dial in your diet and make serious progress.

Try these five 20-minute activities to conquer your weight-loss goals.


If you only have 20 minutes a day to exercise, ACE-certified personal trainer Amanda Dale says you should focus on HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. Add resistance by using weights, kettlebells or resistance bands.  

“Working in high-intensity intervals burns fat faster than working at a steady-state intensity,” says Dale echoing many studies, “and the afterburn effect of working out at high intensity means you’ll burn more calories after the workout as well.”  


A good grocery store haul can simplify your meal prep process and help you make smart food choices day in and day out.

Dietitian Kimberly Gomer, director of nutrition at Miami’s Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa, recommends buying whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible. “Stock up on fruits, veggies, whole grains [like] oatmeal, quinoa and brown rice, plant protein [such as] beans and lentils, egg whites, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and some salmon and chicken breast,” she says.

It’s also important to pick up easy, nutrient-rich snack foods to help manage your appetite throughout the day, according to dietitian Cara Harbstreet of Street Smart Nutrition. Think: fresh fruit, raw nuts and protein bars.



Carve out an extra 20 minutes during your afternoon break to get moving. “Taking a walk after a meal won’t necessarily negate [your] calorie intake,” says Dale, “but it can [increase] the rate at which food moves through [your] stomach, resulting in lower blood sugar,” which, in turn, helps stabilize your appetite and reduce cravings.


Planning your dinners in advance is a foolproof way to ensure you’re eating nutritious, satisfying meals each night. Harbstreet recommends preparing your main ingredients first, whether that means roasting veggies, cooking a batch of quinoa or making salad dressing. “Then, when it comes time to reheat and serve, I [just] add my favorite toppings, seasonings and spices so I can avoid boredom with the same foods,” she says. Check out our Beginners Guide to Meal Planning for more info.


Your cardio workout doesn’t have to be a long slog to be effective, according to Dale. To get your heart rate up and simultaneously burn more fat, experiment with a progressive interval workout. “Instead of running 20 minutes at a 6.0 speed” for example, she says, “try running one minute at 9.0 and walking 30 seconds at 4.0, progressively adding 10 seconds to the running and recovery times until you’ve reached 20 minutes.” For more details, we recommend this short treadmill workout.

If running isn’t your favorite form of cardio, you can incorporate intervals like these into a cycling, swimming or jump-roping workout for the same effect.


  • davedave12

    I’ll ask my boss if I can increase my 30 min lunch by 20 minutes so I can do a HIIT class and not shower

    • paulsur

      you just need to start taking that extra 30 minutes. Who knows, the boss may even give you more time for work out!

      • davedave12

        right — and get fired

        • GunnyNinja

          Don’t blame your lack of motivation on your boss…

          • davedave12

            Stupidest comment on the internet ever. At work I work because it is work and I am expected to work at work. People who steal 30 minutes to exercise from work are thieves

          • GunnyNinja

            You should just take a laxative, you will lose plenty of weight that way…

  • robinbishop34

    I highly recommend meal planning/prep. Having the exact amount pre-made makes it much easier to stick to a calorie limit as well as meet macro requirements.

    Fair warning on HIIT however… this type of demanding cardio will often leave you very hungry later in the day. If you’re in shape and able to control yourself.. go for it. If not, don’t worry… it’s a lot harder to burn off calories than it is to not consume them in the first place.

  • Al_Howard

    Can you do this for the rest of YOUR life? If so, carry on. If not, re-think your plan.

  • Dmember

    “…it’s a lot harder to burn off calories than it is to not consume them in the first place.” Amen to that! lol

    I think the meal planning is an excellent idea, and for the main reason given, which is to ensure nutricious, satisfying meals, and of course to better ensure calorie control. Great idea. I’ve never thought of mothers working outside the home as ‘normal’ so meal planning (any planning) is going to be tougher for them to find the time to do. God help them.

    I have to assume that a 6.0 or 4.0 or 9.0 speed on the treadmill means miles-per-hour? I could never do that…right now I’m lucky to be able to do 15 minutes at 1.6 mph, and that is just walking. (I am no spring-chicken.) But I do understand the importance of ‘moving’ consistently every day and using weights and/or stretch bands to help preserve muscle in the limbs (otherwise we become very weak/shaky). Also, I’ve heard that toe-touching 20 times at least 3 times a day is a good preventative to strokes. I think 10 times 3 times a day is more do-able but whatever…. 🙂

    This is a very helpful article. Thanks!

    • Jennifer Follo

      I saw where people even used like water bottles or a couple of canned food items, to use as weights, then you could sit and lift those at your table or in the easy chair, whenever you like! Great to get started with !!!

      • Cathy

        What are “like water bottles”?

        • David Claude Warlick

          empty graspable ketchup bottles filled with water for light weight, empty milk gallons with a handle and screw top filled with water for under 10 pounds.

        • GunnyNinja

          They are like waters bottles but not…

    • David Claude Warlick

      My personal exercise of choice for the winter chickens is anything that makes you get up and down without assistance. Sit-ups and push-ups are perfect. Get down without touching a chair or other furniture. Do however many sit-ups or push-ups you can do at once. Remember that the sit-ups and push-ups are not the goal, while the movement up and down is. Rise to your knees using your hands, then rise the rest of the way without touching anything including yourself (extend your arms to your sides, and ball your fists, to prevent your hands from being useful). Do this several times a day. The purpose is to make you stable so you avoid late-in-life fatal falls.

    • jcdecardenas

      Yes, they are miles per hour. The important thing is to move and challenge yourself to gradually go faster. I am 61 and not exactly a fan of running but in the last couple of years I started running and right now I run for 30-35 minutes, 4 times a week at speeds between 6 and 7.5 miles per hour on top of weight training which has always be my favorite workout. That little running was what actually put me within the right BMI and 10 % body fat.

  • Toni Natoli

    I’ve developed what the docs are calling metarsalgia (there’s a garbage dx!). Even walking for short distances with SuperFeet for just 20 minutes aggravates it. Until I can get custom orthotics, cycling, walking, jumping are all counterproductive. I’m a wretched swimmer. I have some ideas but what would you suggest?

    • Roscoe Butler

      Weight training will help boost your metabolism. You can do a circuit where you’re building muscle but also getting a cardio workout as well.

    • iolani64

      I used to bodysurf for over 40 years but when I started I just built up my endurance for swimming. Go steady and you should hit a half mile in 29 minutes and build from there. I was like a barge while competitive swimmers just glide through the water. Main thing is to keep at it.

    • White_Birch

      Does a local pool offer water fitness/water aerobics or water walking –sometimes done with a flotation belt in the deep end to be totally non-weight bearing. Not good for osteoporosis, but might help with your foot issues. If you don’t like one class, try another. Different teachers emphasize different things.

      • Lilarose Davis

        I started pool water aerobics because of osteoarthritis and two knee joint replacements. I had no problems at all. Deep end using the flotation belts and tubes. I loved it. Then I took my first swimming lessons (I knew how to swim, was in the municipal and private pools most of the time in summer as a kid, but no formal lessons). I was in my early sixties and the instructor was my age. She taught me how to kick and stroke properly. I have asthma and I was building up my lung capacity. She told me that I could be considered for the master swimming group! The breast stroke was hardest to learn but became my favorite.

        • Toni Natoli

          Lilarose, you’re an inspiration. I’m a terrible swimmer. I’ve recently developed asthma, so it’s good to hear that you’ve done well with that in the pool. Deep water aerobic classes may be an option. thank you!

    • David Claude Warlick

      I once broke a foot bone during a marathon, so I feel your pain. My broken bone hurt for say 5 or 6 years, now is pain free. I offer three sources of good news: (1) Your pain will diminish over time, (2) It does not matter what you do today, as the course of your foot healing itself will not be changed by anything you do, so don’t pay much attention to “aggravation” but do heed any level of more intense pain (Ie, In my case, I started running shorter distances than 26.2 miles), (3) There are famous shoes made 100% of spongy rubber that if you buy the pair new, you can use to walk laps in your house. I do a lot of #3. You probably have heard of the shoe brand. Go to their website, register, and they will start sending you sales. Buy a pair on sale with free shipping. I use my pair to walk about 167 steps, do an arm exercise (I alternate every 167 steps between overhead lifts, curls, and pushups), then repeat 10x for about 5,000 steps (about an hour). The general recommendation is to walk for 10,000 steps per day (slightly under 2 hours for many people, about 30 minutes for the world class).

      • Toni Natoli

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply, David. I’m not “with it” enough to recognize the shoe company you referred to. Which one is it? Thanks.

        • David Claude Warlick

          This may get deleted, but Crocs are great for walking in your own house. They are a little too ribbed for me on the insole, so like you I use an insert. The insert is NOT needed for softness, just if your feet like a really smooth “insole.” I put “insole” in quotes because of course Crocs are all one piece, but I mean the inside part that the sole of your foot will touch.

  • Dmember

    If anybody’s got an EASY way to count calories, I’m all ears. But so far…it looks impossibly complicated to me. And too much like guess-work. I just wish there was a way to take a picture of your plate and have the calories counted automatically. Yeah…dream on.

    • Jennifer Follo

      My fitness pal is very easy, you literally type in what you have and the size of serving, it calculates for you. Also has a scanner so you can scan the barcode say on a package of crackers and it calculates the calories for you according to the portion size, very helpful. It keeps track of calories earned, eaten, water consumed, exercise, everything for you, good luck!!

      • Dmember

        Thanks Jennifer. I’ve got the My Fitness Pal but haven’t used it yet. You are an encouragement to me. 🙂

        • Jennifer Follo

          Well thank you!!! I hope you find it helpful!!! I do!!! I also just got a Fit bit which tracks my steps, heart rate, reminds me to move, and many other things, I love it!!!!

          • David Claude Warlick

            I agree with both solutions, the food tracking and the fitness watch. I use a different model of watch, but it too links to my fitness pal. I kept track of my eating until I got to under 2,000 calories/day. Now I don’t keep track, but I have a clear idea of when I’ve reached my 2,000 (duh, when I’m still hungry). I do record my weight each day to guarantee the trend remains down. The watch is a great motivator. Currently I have a strap for HR, but my next fitness watch will have the HR built in so that I can run/jog safely at under 130 BPM.

      • Sue McGuire

        I agree! The more you use it the easier it gets as you can enter your
        common ‘meals’ and just select that rather than individual items each
        time. e.g. my breakfast meal has the porridge, milk and hot chocolate in it. I also add common recipes and use them (with additions sometimes)
        to save input time and effort.

    • Amy

      Once you get a good history of foods you eat regularly on myfitnesspal putting your meals in is very easy.

      • Dmember

        Thanks Amy!

  • Frank Phillips

    I gave away my very old, beat up riding mower and bought a new push mower. I get my heart rate up to the point I am out of breath and then sit down until my heart calms down. Then I am up and going again. Through the summer the time it takes before each break increases. I think this is the kind of exercise you are writing about.