Just 11 Minute Of Bodyweight Exercises Can Help Improve Health, Study Finds

mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
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It's a new year, which means many of us have fitness goals at the top of our minds. And as we all know, picking up (and sticking with) a New Year's resolution can be challenging. Luckily, according to new research from McMaster University, published in the International Journal of Exercise Science, basic bodyweight exercises still do the trick—and in very little time.

First, what is cardiorespiratory fitness?

For this research, the team wanted to look at how bodyweight-style interval training can improve cardiorespiratory fitness, which they note is a good measure of health and disease risk. It's also an indicator of longevity.

Cardiorespiratory fitness is all about how well your heart, lungs, and, in turn, muscles, hold up during physical activity. Your circulatory (heart) and respiratory (lungs) systems get oxygen to muscles during a workout—so the better your cardiorespiratory fitness, the better your endurance.

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What the researchers found.

Participants for this study completed six weeks of training, three times a week, using only the fitness plan called "5BX," also known as the Five Basic Exercises. The plan was created in the 1950s for the Canadian Air Force, it doesn't require any equipment, and it can be tailored to suit anyone's fitness level.

The 11-minute sequence involved 60 seconds of each exercise in this sequence: burpees, high knees, split squat jumps, high knees, and squat jumps. Participants were instructed to move through each exercise at a "challenging" pace. They were also allowed to take short, active recovery breaks (walking) in between, meaning the 11-minute routine technically qualified as high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

When the six weeks were up, participants who had been following the plan showed higher cardiorespiratory fitness than the group who did not exercise.

The bottom line.

Simple bodyweight exercises offer everyone an effective and accessible way to stay fit—particularly at a time when getting to the gym isn't accessible. "Closures and physical-distancing provisions have limited access to facilities and equipment," lead study author and professor Martin Gibala, Ph.D., says in a news release.

"Our findings have relevance for individuals seeking practical, time-efficient approaches to at least maintain their fitness," he adds.

So, if you're looking to get fit in 2021, don't think you have to set the loftiest of goals in order to see improvement. Just a few minutes of bodyweight moves like pushups and squats can not only help tone your muscles but improve your cardiorespiratory fitness, too. (Check out our mbg moves series for multiple equipment-free workouts.)

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