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In a world where executives face long days and tiring commutes, it's as hard to set aside hours for weekly exercise as it is to find time for family and friends. But for health purposes, you don't need to spend hours at a stretch pumping weights in a gym or tethering yourself to a treadmill. All that's required is to change your mindset and find new opportunities to get your body moving. "Something is better than nothing," says Harold Kohl, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, part of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
At the same time, he concedes that "something more is better than something." That's why, for nearly 10 years, the CDC and the American College of Sports Medicine have urged healthy American adults to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Their studies demonstrated that 150 minutes a week of "moderate intensity" activity -- brisk walking, swimming, or cycling -- could reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and bone fractures. Recent research shows you can divide that effort into smaller increments, spread throughout the day. So with limited time to exercise, what kind of workout -- cardio, weight training, or yoga, for example -- gives the most bang for the buck? BusinessWeek enlisted Todd Durkin, personal trainer and owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, to construct the ideal modular 30-minute workout, featured on the following pages. It uses light weights and exercise balls to build strength, balance, and flexibility -- and you can move through the components of the routine whenever you can snatch the time. By Ellen Licking