Health

Real-life fitness

Our 15-minute workout will help you carry more groceries, stroll with ease and burn more calories

Think you need to spend hours in the gym to get fit? Nonsense. Try just minutes in your own home. Perform our 15-minute workout three times a week and you’ll rev up your engine, burn more calories per day and reap the real-life benefits of your effort in everyday activities. You’ll go about your daily hustle and bustle more efficiently and safely knowing you can lift heavy bags of groceries, run to catch the bus or play with your kids for long periods. Sound too good to be true? Not according to research from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., that shows the key to a healthy weight isn’t the length of your workout, but the amount of calories you burn in a session. Our workout is based on resistance training: a series of exercises that makes your muscles push or pull against some type of force, even your own body weight. And while everyone uses up calories at different rates, resistance training will step up your metabolic rate by increasing muscle mass so that you expend even more energy in your regular activities. Getting fit just got easier.

Target your: Upper body

Real-life benefits

· Grab that high hard-to-reach product at the grocery store
· Stop slumping in front of the computer or the steering wheel
· Lift heavy groceries out of the car trunk with ease
· Rake leaves and clean up the whole yard easily
· Swim more laps at the pool

Body benefits: a flab-free chest, a toned upper back and rear shoulders and shapely arms

Elbow squeeze
A

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms behind you. Rest your hands on your lower back, fingers pointing down toward the floor.

B

Without moving your hands, squeeze your elbows toward each other. Tighten your stomach as you squeeze them together. Focus on stretching your chest as you strengthen your upper back, shoulders and arms. Hold for five deep breaths. Release and repeat.

Iron cross
A

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead. Hold light weights at your sides.

B

Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you do this, raise your arms to chest height in front of you, with elbows slightly bent.

C

With your hands holding light weights, cross one over the other. Return to standing with arms straight out, uncrossed. Each time you lower yourself, alternate hands crossing over each other as they meet in the centre. Do one set of eight to 10 reps. Repeat.

Target your: Lower body

Real-life benefits

· Run to catch a bus
· Climb stairs effortlessly
· Twist to grab a heavy bag from the back seat of the car
· Sit straight in a chair all day
· Pick up heavy objects, such as dining room chairs, with less risk of injury
· Shovel snow with little difficulty

Body benefits: a strong tummy, a tight butt, toned thighs and shapely calves

Plank with leg raise
A

Lie face down on the floor with your arms at your sides in a pushup position. Straighten your arms as you raise yourself up on your hands and toes into a plank position, keeping your knees and back straight (no sagging in the middle).

B

Lift your right leg an inch or two off the ground (or as high as you can without hyperextending your back) and squeeze your butt. Return leg to the floor. Do one set of eight to 10 reps with the right side. Repeat with the left leg.

Plié squat with weight
A

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing out slightly in a plié position. With both hands in front of you, hold a dumbbell with straight arms.

B

Bend your legs as you lower yourself down toward the floor. Make sure you don’t lower yourself too far—just enough that your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Squeeze your inner thighs and butt as you raise yourself back into the start position. Do three sets of eight to 10 reps.

Twist ‘n’ touch
A

Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lean back until you feel a slight contraction in your abs. Extend your arms out to the sides, parallel to the floor.

B

Twist your shoulders to the left side, making sure your abs stay tight. Keep your hips centred. Reach your extended right arm over to the left, as you try to reach for your left palm. Hold for three breaths. Return to the start position. Raise your body up slightly. Repeat three times. Switch sides.

Target your: Whole body

Real-life benefits

· Play with your kids at the playground without tiring
· Enjoy better balance and co-ordination
· Walk fast and far without taking a break
· Paint the ceiling without strain
· Outpace other in-line skaters
· Lug laundry up the stairs easily
· Move heavy furniture painlessly

Body benefits: shapely shoulders, a flab-free chest, toned upper and lower abs, a firm butt and sculpted legs

Full-body pillow pass
A

Lie on the floor, knees bent and feet flat, fingers linked on your stomach, holding a large pillow between your lower legs.

B

Squeeze the pillow to hold it in place as you straighten your legs and lift your feet. At the same time, reach your arms toward the pillow and pass it into your hands. Lower your legs to the floor as you bring the pillow behind your head to touch the floor. Keep your abs tight throughout the pass. Return to the start position. Repeat five times.

Lunge ‘n’ lift
A

Stand in the lunge stance, legs parallel with one in front of the other, feet pointing forward and arms at your sides holding light weights. Don’t extend bent knee beyond toes.

B

Bend your knees and lower yourself to a comfortable stance so your leg muscles are tight. While lunging, bend your arms 90 degrees, keeping your elbows tucked into your waist and lifting your elbows to shoulder height. Keep weights below your shoulders and wrists straight (no curling). Return to start. Do a set of eight to 10 reps. Switch legs and repeat.

Side squat ‘n’ reach
A

Stand with your feet close together, holding a dumbbell in each hand at chest height, close to your body. Keep your elbows pressed into your sides.

B

Take a wide step out to one side and bend both your knees. At the same time, press your dumbbells or weighted ball straight out in front of you. Return to the start position. Repeat five times on each side.

How to exercise right
· Avoid injury Keep your abs tight and your back straight before you begin each move.
· Slow down Controlled movement is the best way to get results. Don’t rush through exercises.
· Don’t hold your breath Your blood pressure can increase to dangerous levels during weightlifting if you hold your breath. Make sure you breathe slowly and deeply.
· Rest To build muscles, you need to give them a break. Take a day off between workouts.
· Lighten the load Use lighter weights if you find you can’t hold a position.