From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

By Matthew Mayer, MSc.

January can be a tough month to stay active when it's dark, windy and cold outside. Instead of hibernating, try being active 10 minutes at a time. It can give you more energy to get through your day while helping your heart stay strong and healthy.

Breaking your activities into 10-minute sessions will help you achieve Canada's physical activity guideline targets for adults

You need to know that when you condense an activity session into a 10-minute period, it's important to get the most out of it. Simple things to remember: keep moving, elevate your heart rate and set a challenging target. For sure, walking briskly around your neighbourhood or local mall for 10 minutes is a good way to get some activity into your day. But another excellent way to make a 10-minute activity session challenging is to rotate combination exercises over set time periods. I have created a similar workout for my mother who is 60. If she can do it, so can most of you.

The 10-minute combo workout

Combo #1: squats and jumping jacks (3 minutes)

Perform these activities for 3 minutes. Every 30 seconds switch activity with no break. Aim to perform 5 to 10 squats and 20 to 30 jumping jacks per 30 seconds.

  • Squat – Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and cross your arms, placing your hands on the opposite shoulders. Begin the movement by bending your knees forward while allowing your hips to bend back behind. Maintain a flexed/straight back and your knees pointing in the same direction as your feet. Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor (keeping your both feet flat). Return back to start and repeat. 
  • Jumping jacks – Stand straight with your hands at your side, palms forward, and your feet together. In one motion, jump - landing both feet slightly wider than shoulder with apart – and raise both arms above your head – like you are making a snow angel – reaching the top when your feet land. Jump back to your starting position, lowering your arms back the original position as your feet land.

Combo #2: crunch and push-up (3 minutes)

Perform these activities for 3 minutes. Every 30 seconds switch activity with no break. Aim to perform 8 to 12 crunches and 8 to 12 push-ups per 30 seconds.

  • Crunch – Lie flat on your back, bending your knees and maintaining your feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms on your chest, placing your hands on opposite shoulders. Start the movement by flexing at the waist to raise your upper torso off the floor, keeping your lower torso on the floor. Hold for a second and return to start and repeat. 
  • Push-up – Lie stomach down on the floor with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Position your hands so your finger tips are aligned with your shoulder. Keeping your body straight, use your arms to push from your knees up. Lower your body by bending your arms pausing with your body 5 cm above the ground. Repeat. Increase intensity by coming up on your toes instead of your knees. 

Combo #3: high-knee run and forward lunge (3 minutes)

Perform these activities for 3 minutes. Every 30 seconds switch activity with no break. Aim to perform 20 to 30 touches each side and 4 to 6 lunges each leg per 30 seconds.

  • High-knee run – Stand with your arms bent at the elbow so your forearm is parallel with the floor and your hands palms down. Run on the spot raising each knee to contact your palms (do not lower your hands to make contact).
  • Forward lunge – Stand with feet shoulder-with apart and hands at your side. Step and then lunge forward with your right leg landing with your foot pointing forward. Lower your body by flexing at the knee and bending at the hip of the lead leg. Lower until your front thigh is parallel to the floor, but do not allow your back knee to touch the ground. To return to standing by extending the hip and knee of the front leg. One rep is counted when you have lunged with both the left and right leg. Keep abs tucked and back straight to minimize lower back stress.

Get the most out of these exercises

Concentrate on controlled, slow and deliberate movements so that your muscles are tense during the entire motion. For jumping jacks and high-knee run, perform at a moderate – and continuous – pace the entire time. Between sets of exercises, take no longer than 30 seconds to clear your working space, have a drink of water, and get ready for the next set of exercises.

If you are ready to increase your challenge, increase the total time for each set of exercises to 5 minutes (continuing the 30 second rotation) and maintain the 30 second break. If you want to increase the challenge but need to keep the session short, add weights to each activity.

If you would like to choose your own exercises, your goal should be to exhaust a muscle group by selecting two exercises that work similar muscle groups. Choose at least 3 different sets of exercises and remember to make the most of your condensed session.

Before starting any new activity program, be sure to talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional.

Matthew Mayer is an exercise physiologist.

Posted: January 2013

Heart and Stroke Foundation


Your use of the information in this article is subject to the Heart and Stroke Foundation Terms and Conditions of Use and therefore you agree to be bound by the implied terms and conditions in each of the following statements.

This article has been independently researched, written and reviewed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and is based on scientific evidence. The information is for reference and education only. This web article is not intended to be a substitute for a physician’‘s advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should consult your physician for specific information on personal health matters. The Heart and Stroke Foundation assumes no responsibility or liability arising from any error in, or omission of, information or from the use of any information or advice contained within this article.

™ - All trademarks, service marks, logos and articles are owned by and are the exclusive property of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada ("HSFC") and authorized use is only granted under license. Such trademarks, service marks, logos and articles may not be reproduced, copied, imitated or used, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of HSFC.

© - 2011. Reproduced with permission of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada