Body-Weight exercise of 11 minutes with verified health benefits

Body-Weight exercise of 11 minutes with verified health benefits

Burpees, jump squats and other calisthenics for five minutes, alternating with rest, increased aerobic endurance in out-of-shape men and women.

Five minutes of burpees, jump squats and other calisthenics significantly improve aerobic endurance, according to one of the first randomized, controlled trials to test the effects of brief body-weight workouts. The results of the study are predictable but encouraging, at a time when many of us rely on brief exercise sessions to achieve or maintain our fitness in our homes. They give scientific confirmation that, physiologically, these basic exercises will work and our burpees will not be in vain.

Last year, when typical gym hours were shortened by the pandemic and many people were unwilling to exercise on crowded sidewalks or paths outside, quite a few of us shifted our workouts indoors, into our living rooms or basements, altering how we exercise. Some of us have bought stationary bicycles and begun intensive spin classes or switched to personal trainers and yoga classes online. But many of us have begun to do some form of a body-weight routine, using calisthenics and other basic strength-training exercises that offer resistance based on our body weight.

Of course, since almost time immemorial, body-weight training has been a staple of exercise. This style of exercise has gone by numerous names, from Swedish exercises a century ago to the Five Basic Exercises (5BX) program of the Royal Canadian Air Force in the 1960s, to today’s Scientific 7-Minute Workout and its variants, typically structured as several, familiar calisthenics performed one after another.

One of the features of these programs in general is that you perform the exercises consecutively, but not continuously; that is, you perform several repetitions of one exercise, pause and recover, and move on to the next. This technique makes the workouts a form of interval training, accompanied by brief periods of rest, with bursts of intense exertion.

So, researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., agreed to create and test a simple body weight routine for the new study, which was published this month in the International Journal of Exercise Science. They modelled their version on the well-known 5BX curriculum, which was once used in remote locations to train members of the Canadian military. But the scientists exchanged elements from the original, including exercises such as old-fashioned situps that are not considered especially good for the back or successful in building endurance.

They ended up with a program that alternated calisthenics for one minute, including changed burpees (omitting the push-ups tacked on the move by some enthusiasts) and running in place, also in place, with a minute of walking. No equipment, little room and a total of 11 minutes, including a minute to warm up and cool down, were needed for the routine.

They then recruited 20 healthy but out-of-shape young men and women, assessed their present fitness, leg power, and strength of handgrip, and randomly assigned half to start implementing the new program three times a week, while as a control, the others continued with their normal lives.

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