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When classes and responsibilities become overwhelming, or gym equipment isn’t easily accessible, it can be tempting to put exercise on the back burner. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity has been proven to sharpen judgment and enhance one’s ability to learn and focus, so taking some time to exercise will ultimately support your academic success.

Danielle Monteiro, a certified athletic trainer at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, explains, “Moderate exercise on a regular basis is associated with improved mood, better memory, and a sounder night’s sleep.”

“Exercise doesn’t have to mean expensive equipment or hours at the gym,” says Delia H., a first-year graduate student at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts.

A fun, versatile way to incorporate any type of exercise into the busiest of schedules is a “Deck of Cards” workout. It can be modified to accommodate your personal preferences, desired level of intensity, and functional improvements you’d like to focus on-in addition to the amount of time and space you have. Here’s how it works:

Materials

Necessary: One deck of 52 playing cards
Preferable: Exercise mat or towel
Optional: Hand weights, resistance band, medicine ball, and/or jump rope

Get Started

Alone or with a partner, shuffle the deck of cards and assign a particular exercise to each suit. Here are some ideas that require no props or equipment:

Hearts = Pushups
These tone and strengthen the upper body, including the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Diamonds = Crunches
These work your core, especially the abdominal muscles.

Spades = Squats
Squats exercise your lower-body muscles, such as the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

Clubs = Lunges
These also strengthen your lower-body muscles.

Use the value on each card to represent the number of times you’ll complete each exercise. For face cards: Jack = 11 reps, Queen = 12 reps, King = 13 reps, and Ace = 14 reps.

To target different muscle groups, use new exercises each time you do the Deck of Cards workout.

Create a customized workout plan if you don’t like the suggestions here. For instance, if you’d like more cardio exercise, replace squats with jumping jacks or do mountain climbers instead of pushups.

You can adjust the Deck of Cards workout to meet your time limitations by setting a timer for 20-30 minutes. See how many cards you can get through within that time frame, or for an added challenge, time yourself and see how long it takes for you to get through all 52 cards. If you get through the entire deck, you will have completed 104 reps of each exercise!

Deck of Cards Workout Apps

Playing Card Workout, by MickolasJae
Price: Free
Devices: Android
For more information

RipDeck, by Warm Fuzzy Apps
Price: $1.99
Devices: iOS 5.1 or later
For more information

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