Too busy, too tired, too stressed...these are all common excuses when it comes to blowing off a workout. Unfortunately, these justifications mean nothing for our health. You don't need to run a marathon to benefit from physical activity—with these ten-minute workouts, you can maximize your free time without even breaking a sweat.
Lack of time and money are two of the greatest perceived barriers to exercising. Everyone is just too busy and too stressed to put aside time to focus on their health. The reality is that if you have 10 minutes and a little outdoor space, you have no excuses.
Time for fitness
Family demands and everyday responsibilities can make it extremely difficult to fit in a workout at the gym before or after work. You may have to get the kids ready for school in the morning, or your attention is consumed by walking the dog, making dinner, and updating your Twitter account in the evenings (selfie!).
Lunch is the one block of time out of your day that’s just for you—it’s the ticket to keeping you healthy and active. Whether your lunch break is 30 minutes or 60 minutes, you can fit in a 10-minute workout without having to change your clothes!
A walk in the park
Walking is better than sitting, and it’s been proven to reduce anxiety and depression and boost mental health in otherwise sedentary individuals. While walking on a treadmill is better than sitting, walking outdoors is even better!
If you’re looking for a little more bang for your buck, take 10 minutes to do five exercises that will strengthen and lengthen your muscle, without breaking a sweat. Before dismissing this idea, note that these exercises are based on isometric contractions of muscle, that is, engaging your muscles without lengthening or shortening them.
Research has shown that isometric contractions not only increase strength within muscles, but may also lower blood pressure. Of course, if you aren’t eating a healthy lunch, a good workout routine will only take you so far. Consult a holistic nutritionist for advice on what to eat to support your fitness.
Sweat-free isometric workout
If you’re crunched for time, there are two methods of training that will maximize your efficiency: super-setting and circuit training. For our isometric workout, we’ll employ the method of super-setting: we’ll alternate a 30-second positional hold with a 30-second stretch twice, before moving on to the next pairing. You may want to bring a mat that you can put on the ground, so you don’t get dirty.
To add an element of flexibility, these five exercises will be alternated with dynamic stretches to contribute to optimal posture.
Saturday, June 6 is Canada’s first National Health and Fitness Day!
Contact your local member of Parliament at parl.gc.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members for information on local activities, or better yet, create your own!
Pairing 1: Lunge Hold and Rag Doll Stretch
Muscles worked: gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteus medius
- Begin by stepping your left foot forward, so there’s 3 to 4 ft (1 to 1.2 m) between the heel of your front foot and the toe of your back foot.
- Shift your weight to your front heel, allowing the heel of your right foot to come off the ground.
- For balance, extend your arms out to the sides as you lower your back knee to a height of 3 or 4 in (7.5 to 10 cm) off the ground. Your body should remain upright and still.
- Set a goal of holding this position for 20 to 30 seconds (30 seconds being the maximum).
- Upon completion, rise back up by straightening your legs, and then step your right foot forward.
- In set two, you’ll repeat these steps, but with the other leg forward.
Rag Doll Stretch
Muscles stretched: hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, lower back
- Begin in standing position with feet roughly hip width apart.
- Keeping your limbs mostly straight (but allowing for a slight bend during movement), push your hips back as you allow your body to bend forward at the waist, relaxing into the stretch so that you feel a light pull in the back of your legs.
- Relax into this stretch for about 5 seconds, and then rise back up.
- Upon achieving full standing position, allow yourself to relax back into the stretch.
- Repeat for 30 seconds.
Getting up to 15 minutes of sun exposure a day (without sunscreen) is recommended for fair-skinned people to produce an adequate daily amount of vitamin D within the body. A longer exposure time may be required for people with darker skin.
Pairing 2: High Push-up Hold and Chest Stretch
High Push-up Hold
Muscles worked: chest, triceps, shoulders, core
Depending on your current fitness level, you can either do this on the ground or with hands elevated on a bench or a wall; the higher your hands are above your feet, the lower the level of difficulty.
- Begin on your hands and knees, with your hands flat on the ground underneath your shoulders and shoulder width apart.
- Keeping your eyes toward the ground and your elbows at roughly a 45-degree angle from your body, allow your upper body to lower 3 to 5 in (7.5 to 12.5 cm) toward the ground.
- Focus on squeezing your abdominals by drawing your stomach muscles in toward your spine and squeezing them for as long as you can hold this position. If you feel your abdominals release, the exercise is over.
- When your time is up, come back up to standing position.
- If you want to make this exercise more difficult, you can either sink lower to the ground or perform from your toes, instead of your knees.
Muscles stretched: chest, shoulders, biceps, abdominals
- From a standing position, raise your arms in front of you and then to your sides as wide as you can, just above shoulder height.
- As you do so, open your palms to the sky and lightly push your hips forward.
- After holding this for about 5 seconds, return to starting position.
- Repeat for a total of 30 seconds.
Pairing 3: Starfish Back Extension and Child’s Pose
Starfish Back Extension
- Muscles worked: lower back, gluteals, shoulders, middle back
- Begin by lying face down on the ground with arms extended out to the sides, palms down, and legs extended behind you, slightly more than hip width apart.
- All at once, arch your lower back, picking up your legs, arms, and chest off the ground as high as you can (imagine you’re skydiving).
- Hold this position for 30 seconds.
Muscles stretched: latissimus dorsi, lower back, shoulders
- Begin on your hands and knees with your knees about hip width apart.
- Extend your hands together on the ground, out in front of your face.
- Keeping your arms straight, sit your hips back onto your heels, actively pushing your chest toward the ground.
- Hold for 5 seconds, then return to starting position.
- Repeat this motion for 30 seconds.
Pairing 4: Stagger-Stance Plank and Upper Body Rotations
Muscles worked: obliques, core, shoulders
- Begin on the ground on your forearms and knees; your elbows should be beneath your shoulders.
- Rotate your hips so that your lower body is balanced on the outside of your right knees and the outside of your right calf.
- Your hips should be pressed forward, creating a straight line from your knee through your shoulders.
- Hold this position.
- If you find this too easy, do it from your feet, by extending your legs and scissoring your feet so that your bottom leg is in front of your top leg.
- Repeat these steps on the other side in set two.
Upper Body Rotations
Muscles stretched: obliques, lower back, middle back
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, arms relaxed at your sides.
- With a slight knee bend, twist at the waist, rotating your shoulders to the left, and allowing your head to follow.
- Without pausing, twist back, all the way over to the right.
- Continue this action for 30 seconds.
- You should twist with just enough force so that your arms automatically rise up between waist and shoulder height.
Pairing 5: Wall Sit and Butt Kickers
Muscles worked: quadriceps, gluteals
- Find a wall that’s your height or higher.
- “Sit” with your head, back, and tailbone flat against the wall.
- Your hips should be just above knee height, and your feet and knees should be about hip width apart; your arms should be relaxed at your sides.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Return to standing position once you’ve achieved your goal time.
Muscles stretched: quadriceps, hip flexors
- Standing with your feet hip width apart, swing your leg up behind you as if attempting to kick yourself in the seat of your pants.
- Allow your leg to swing back to starting position naturally, and then repeat with the other leg. Continue this action for 30 seconds.