Transform your overall health in 11 minutes – even if you’re unfit – with these 5 easy workouts

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All you need is 11 minutes to improve your overall health – even if you’re unfit (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
All you need is 11 minutes to improve your overall health – even if you’re unfit (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

There are so many reasons we can’t get into an exercise routine. No time, no space, too unfit, gym is unsafe – all valid enough to keep us from sticking to that New Year’s resolution that lasted all of three days.

Experts will usually tell you there are no shortcuts – only eating properly and exercising can keep you in tiptop shape. But that brings us right back to the list of problems with exercise routines!

This conundrum may be why so many were excited about a new study showing all you need is 11 minutes and your own bodyweight to improve your overall fitness levels.

Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota in the US developed and tested a modified version of the 5BX programme, once used to train members of the Royal Canadian Air Force. 

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Twenty healthy but unfit young men and women were recruited. Their fitness, leg power and handgrip strength were measured. Half were assigned to practise three times a week, while the others didn’t do anything.

After six weeks those who exercised were fitter, upped their endurance by an average of 7% and improved their leg power. The other group’s fitness and strength remained unchanged.

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So essentially you can change your fitness levels if you have 11 minutes – and that includes a warmup and cooldown. And you don’t need any equipment because calisthenics exercises requires only your body weight.

Experts weigh in on how to do it.

11-Minute Body-Weight workout

1 minute of easy jumping jacks, to warm up

1 minute of modified burpees (without push-ups)

1 minute of walking in place

1 minute of high-knee running in place

1 minute of walking in place

1 minute of split squat jumps (starting and ending in the lunge position, while alternating which leg lands forward)

1 minute of walking in place

1 minute of high-knee running in place

1 minute of walking in place

1 minute of squat jumps

1 minute of walking in place, to cool down



“This is a great exercise to start,” says Harold Jansen, owner of a Cape Town gym. “It allows you some lateral (or side-to-side) movement, which many people forget to train. There are muscles on the side of the body too, not just the front and back.”

Jumping jacks target all major muscle groups. It increases the heart rate, improving cardiovascular fitness that contributes to heart health.

Speed Start slowly and progressively increase your speed, to get your heart rate going at a healthy pace.

Beginner modification Do alternate side steps. Slowly step from side to side while in a shallow squat position.

Things to remember

Avoid doing jumping jacks if you have weak knees and ankles.

There should be a slight bend in the knees when you land and your feet should be slightly turned out.



“This is the workout everyone loves to hate!” Natascha Oosthuizen, a body and mind transformation coach jokes. “Burpees are the ultimate example of functional fitness. Every rep will work your arms, chest, quads, hamstrings, glutes and abs.”

Speed Go as fast as you can (check online how to get proper form).

Beginner modification From a high plank position, walk in with the left leg, then the right leg. Do a slight jump and reach for the sky.

Things to remember

Jump up with your legs, not your back and land on your heels.

Keep your core tight by pulling your navel towards your spine.



This works your core and the muscles in the lower body. It also gives your heart rate a spike, which improves cardiovascular fitness.

Speed Go as fast as possible.

Beginner modification Slowly march on the spot, lifting your knees as high as possible.

Things to remember Keep your torso upright and relax your shoulders down.



This exercise develops leg power and can improve joint stability and minimise injuries caused by muscle imbalances.

Speed This is basically a squat and lunge combined. “Start off slow to find your foot position after every jump, until you get better at it and then go as fast as you can,” Jansen advises.

Beginner modification “This is a difficult exercise to execute correctly,” Jansen says. “If you can’t perform this yet, I suggest doing ski-jumps.”

1.    Stand with your feet together, knees bent and holding bent elbows next to your side.

2.    Keep your feet together as you jump to one side, turning so your hips and toes point right.

3.    Now jump to the other side, feet still together, and turn so your hips and toes point left.

4.    Continue jumping from left to right, keeping your legs tightly together and turning your arms and waist as if you are holding ski poles.

Things to remember

Tighten your core.

Keep your knees in line with your ankles – your knees shouldn’t be over your toes when you’re in lunge position.



“Squat jumps work your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes and core. It increases overall physical strength and cardiovascular ability,” Oosthuizen says.

Speed Squat down at a moderate speed, then jump up explosively, Jansen suggests.

Beginner modification

Oosthuizen suggests a static squat:

1.    Place your feet at shoulder width or just outside of shoulder-width.

2.    Turn your toes out slightly.

3.    Swing your arms up to shoulder level as you slowly bend your knees and push your hips backward.

4.    Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Pause and stay in this position for as long as you can.

Things to remember

Tighten your core and keep your knees bent when you land.

Keep your knees in line with your ankles. Your knees shouldn’t go over your toes.


Resting between sets gives your body time to restore its energy stores and takes the strain off your heart. It lets your body adapt to the exercises so you can recover faster between sets in the future.

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In the study, participants were told to exercise three times a week. According to Jansen, starting with two days a week when you aren’t used to exercising will be enough. However, add another day to your routine after three weeks. “You can add another day every three weeks until you get to five days,” he says. “I wouldn’t recommend more than five days a week as the body needs time to recover.”


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