5-minute workouts: Don't let time crunches stop yours

May 18, 2015

Were all but the tiniest sliver of your favorite pie left, would you eat it or gripe that you wanted the whole pie? Would you stay indoors on the one sunny day of your weeklong beach vacation, lamenting that the other six were rained out?

Of course not. Snippets matter, be they of pie or of days or, when it comes to working out, of minutes. In other words, the "not enough time" excuse doesn’t cut it. Try a minute every hour of push-ups off the countertop, or squats while your coffee reheats, and just see how that energizes you.

"I want to show people exercise is not as disruptive as we’re made to believe, where you drive to the gym, spend an hour there, shower, drive home," says Brett Klika, a California personal trainer and author of "7 Minutes to Fit" (Chronicle, $14.95). "Just drop your stuff and in a couple of minutes, you’ve changed your physiological makeup."

With that encouragement in mind, we offer these ways to make the most of one-, five-, seven- and 10-minute chunks of time.

One minute

The expert: Brother ChiSing (a.k.a. Norman Eng), spiritual director of the Dallas Meditation Center.

As with physical exercise, meditating for 20 minutes is better than one, but even those 60 seconds can be helpful, he says.

Making it work: Take a minute when you wake up to be still and visualize the best outcome for your day, he says. Or take three slow, deep breaths, then spend the rest of the minute focusing on and enjoying your own way of breathing. Or walk for a minute, he says.

"My body feels weak sometimes," says ChiSing, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, "but to do a one-minute walk up and down the stairs makes such a difference for me.

"One minute will open the door to your heart wanting more," he says. "I believe in the power of one-minute meditation and one-minute exercise."

Five minutes

The expert: Tara Kristof, Dallas yoga instructor.

"There are a couple of ways to go," says Kristof. "Sun salutations, floor stretches. Sometimes that’s all I have time for during the day. The whole body is moving, the heart rate is up."

Making it work: To do a sun salutation, check out for more detail than we can give here. For the floor stretch (or supta padangusthasana, if you want to get technical), start by lying on the floor or on your bed with your legs extended.

Keeping your left leg on the floor, hug your right knee into your chest. Then wrap a strap, rope or rolled-up towel around the ball of your right foot. Hold on to each end of the strap with one or both hands while you extend your leg, raising it into the air. Stretch the leg for several breaths, moving toward as straight a leg as possible.

Take the strap into your right hand while you open your leg out to the right. Keep the left leg firmly on the floor or bed while you take several deep breaths through your nose. Raise your right leg and move the strap to your left hand. Guide it across your body, holding the stretch for several breaths.

Finally, with your right leg across your body to the left, extend your right arm to the right while you turn your chest and your gaze to the right. Voilà: a spinal twist.

Repeat on the left side, making sure to breathe deeply in and out the nose. That creates in the body a response of calming the nervous system, she says.

"It can wake you up more, balance you out because you’re getting more oxygen," Kristof says. "It’s definitely better than not doing anything at all. It’s getting energy moving through your body."

Seven minutes

The expert: Brett Klika, author of "7 Minutes to Fit."

These 420 seconds are near and dear to the heart of Klika. He co-wrote and published the research behind Johnson & Johnson’s time-crunch workout — which, thanks to The New York Times, most people now know as the 7-Minute Scientific Workout.

There’s nothing magic about the number seven, he says; it came about simply from a dozen exercises done for 30 seconds each, with 10 seconds rest between each. But he says, "When you look at creating physiological change, of improving your mood, you can change your biochemistry with movement."

Making it work: His book features 50 workouts consisting of 10 exercises each. Pick one and do each segment as vigorously as you can for 30 seconds. Rest 10 seconds between each. If you can do two or three back-to-back, great. Or do one in the morning and one at night. Or just do one; it will make a difference.

"Your biochemistry would change for the better," he says. "You’d experience an enhanced mood and decrease your likeliness of depression. You’d improve flexibility. Seven minutes is so accessible, you can do it every day."

Klika has divided the workouts into full-body, upper-body, lower-body and abdominal, but each set works the entire body, he says. Here’s a sampling from the Upper-Body Workouts section. It may look like a lot, but the time really will go by quickly.



Plank to push-up

Sports sprints (a.k.a. high-knee running in place)


Triceps dips and reach

Reverse lunges

Worm walkouts


Dive-bomber push-ups

10 minutes

The expert: Ellen Cardona, a Dallas-area personal trainer.

"If you can put in 10 minutes and make your 10-minute workout intense and using all your body, this is a great workout," she says. "Your body’s a great machine and is meant to be used."

Making it work: If you don’t have a 10-minute chunk of time, do half of this now and half later, she says. "The more intensity the better."

For more of a description of each part of the workout, go to; to watch each in action, go to

For a warmup, pretend to jump rope to the count of 60. Then run in place, lifting knees high, for another minute.

For legs, do 10 full-body squats, lowering to the count of three, holding for two, pushing up and immediately lowering again. Move on to forward lunges, five per leg, and curtsy lunges; again, five on each side.

For speed and power, do 10 burpees and 10 mountain climbers. For core, do a plank for one minute or divide it into 20- or 30-second segments. For abs, do 10 leg lifts, followed by 10 repeats of "walking up the leg."

To cool down, stand up, lift your arms high above your head. Bend your torso until your hands brush the ground. Slowly rise, one vertebrae at a time.



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