Try this low-impact winter workout for busy people

Learn three simple exercises to complete this scientific exercise that fits into anyone’s holiday schedule

(Video: Alexa Juliana Ard / The Washington Post)

Most of us need exercise during vacation to be easy and short. This makes this new, scientific practice a timely gift.

It’s a simple, 11-minute, three-workout routine designed to be low-impact, but aerobically challenging enough to maintain or build fitness, no matter how hectic your vacation gets. The workout, recently developed by exercise scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, includes common muscle exercises that should be able to be performed by many of us, regardless of age, experience, coordination or fitness.

All you need to get started is an open space, comfortable clothes and shoes, and a one-minute timer. Warm up with jumping jacks for a minute, then start the set. Do as many repetitions of each exercise as you can in one minute.

(Video: Alexa Juliana Ard / The Washington Post)

Standing down on the floor, legs under the chest, hands on the ground. Extend and straighten your legs. Pull them back. Stand up. Repeat for 60 seconds. When you finish, recover by walking in place for 60 seconds to allow your breathing, heart rate and muscles to relax momentarily.

(Video: Alexa Juliana Ard / The Washington Post)

When standing, hold your hands in front of you. Raise your left knee until it touches your hands. Return your feet to the ground. Repeat. Switch legs after 30 seconds. When you’re done, recover with a 60-second walk in place.

(Video: Alexa Juliana Ard / The Washington Post)

On all fours, kick back one leg, then the other, as if you were climbing a horizontal slope. Repeat for 60 seconds. When you’re done, walk in place for 60 seconds to recover.

(Video: Alexa Juliana Ard / The Washington Post)

Repeat 60 seconds of knee jerks, then walk in place for 60 seconds.

(Video: Alexa Juliana Ard / The Washington Post)

Repeat for 60 seconds of squat thrusts. You are ready!

Why bodyweight training is good for you

The researchers specifically chose the exercises for this exercise to activate both upper and lower body muscles without overstressing the joints, said McMaster University kinesiology professor Martin Gibala, who helped develop and study the new exercise.

The routine as a whole is quite knee-friendly, she said, because it involves minimal jumping or pounding, although there is some bending.

The goal is to push yourself out of your physical comfort zone for those 60 seconds, Gibala said, scoring about a 7 or 8 on a 10-point scale. In sports science, this strain is classified as vigorous, which means it is heavier than, for example, brisk walking, which is considered moderate.

This exercise grew out of previous research by Gibala and other researchers into what makes a bodyweight routine effective.

Ideally, such workouts should raise your heart rate into or near the vigorous range for at least 10 minutes, Gibala said. According to him, they should also engage muscles throughout the body in the legs, core and upper body.

That way, exercise can challenge your cardiovascular system and muscles enough to adapt and strengthen, he said.

Improvement for other exercises

In 2021, an earlier, slightly more rigorous 11-minute bodyweight workout developed by Gibala and colleagues significantly improved aerobic fitness among healthy college students who performed three workouts per week for six weeks.

But this workout, which included burpees, fast running in place and squat jumps, could easily overtax some people’s fitness and mature knee joints, the researchers speculated.

So the researchers substituted several gentler exercises and tested the new exercise in a study published in November in Scientific Reports. This time, 27 healthy young men and women were strapped to heart rate and glucose monitors so the researchers could assess their heart rate, 24-hour blood sugar control, and other physiological measures during their normal lives.

Then, a few days later, they squatted on the same monitors and climbed mountains during an 11-minute workout.

One exercise raised their heart rate into the vigorous range for most of the 11 minutes. It can certainly be an effective workout as long as you maintain the intensity during each workout, says Gibala.

The routine had little effect on 24-hour blood sugar control, probably because the young people tested started out so strongly with healthy blood sugar levels, Gibala said.

So find an empty space in your home or hotel room when the holidays are busy and push yourself for five minutes of exercise and five more for a walk. Increase the speed if the exercises seem too easy. Or swap one or two of them for a more demanding exercise, such as jumping or high-knee running, if your joints and stamina allow.

Above all, allow yourself to have fun with the exercise, Gibala said. It’s easy to do with a group, he noted. So, invite relatives. Take restless children with you. See who can do the most reps of each exercise in a minute, or encourage each other to complete the last squat. The goal is to keep May Day healthy and happy.

Videos Alexa Juliana Ard. Copy editing by Matt Schnabel. Exercises presented by Las Vegas certified personal trainer Allison Tye.

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