From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

By Matthew Mayer, MSc.

Happy New Year! Is this the year you're ready to get serious about physical activity?

We're here to help. This simple routine will ease you into a more active lifestyle, 10 minutes at a time. Just follow the easy steps below. The best part? You don't need a gym.

For beginners: Complete the five activities in succession at one minute each - that's one set. Take a two-minute break, then do it all again. After the second week, combine the two five-minute sets for a single 10-minute set. Try this every other day, doing other winter activities on the off-days.

If you're already active: Combine the two sets of five exercises to a single set of 10 minutes, repeating exercises twice before taking a two-minute break and repeating.

  • Squats: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and cross your arms, placing your hands on the opposite shoulders. Slowly bend at your knees and hips, lowering until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and your knees above your feet. Return to start and repeat.
    Advanced option: Instead of a controlled slow squat, explode up through the squat - jumping as high as you can - before landing softly on the balls of your feet back into the squat position.
  • Push-ups: Lie on your stomach with your palms on the floor, fingertips aligned with your shoulders. Keeping your body straight, use your arms to push upwards, knees on the floor, until your elbows are straight. Lower until your body is 5 cm above the ground. Repeat. When you're ready to increase the intensity, come up on your toes instead of your knees. 
    Advanced option: Hold the push-up position at the middle and bottom for five seconds before continuing the movement up and down.
  • Lunges: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands at your sides. Step one foot forward about two feet. Now lower until your front thigh is parallel to the floor, knee above your ankle; don't let your back knee touch the ground. Return to starting position. One rep is counted when you have lunged with both the left and right leg.
    Tip: Keep abs flexed and back straight to minimize lower back stress.
  • Mountain climbers: From the top of a push-up position, bring one leg under your upper body - like an exaggerated sprinter's position - with your other leg extended behind you. In one motion, alternate legs by bringing one leg up under the body, while extending the other behind. Alternate legs - as if climbing upwards - while holding your upper body in place.
  • Plank: Lie stomach down on the floor with your forearms under you. Push up off the floor so your forearms and toes are the only points of contact, elbows under your shoulders. Tuck in your bum and hold your body straight - as if you were a plank someone could rest books on - and hold.

End with a 10 minute walk, jog or run.

Tip: If you feel that you cannot do an exercise for the full minute, take a short (10 second) break halfway through. Listen to your body, but remember to challenge yourself.

If you need a visual demonstration, excellent videos are available on Youtube; just Google the names of the exercises.

Stay tuned: In the coming months we will be adding to this routine.

For more inspiration on making change to live healthier, check out these articles:

Keys to successful behaviour change

Eating healthier, one habit at a time

Before starting any physical activity routine, please check with your healthcare provider.

Matt Mayer is an exercise physiologist.

Posted: January 2012

Heart and Stroke Foundation


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