How to Get Fit in 15 Minutes a Day

Alex McMillan

Alex McMillan

Head Trainer, Mid Age Man

Personal training normally conjures up an image of a drill-sergeant trainer with bulging biceps standing over you. Here at Mid Age Man, that’s not our bag. Here's how to get fit in just 15 minutes a day.

Personal training normally conjures up images of boot camps, Ironman races, obstacle courses that would challenge a Marine, and drill-sergeant style trainers with bulging biceps standing over you.

Military imagery. Forced exercise. Pain.

Here at Mid Age Man, that’s not our bag.

Our philosophy, built around four pillars, revolves around the idea that it is a little consistent effort on physical exercise, a focus on pragmatic nutrition, and an emphasis on positive thought that will make us “fit.”

I say “a little consistent effort,” because it really is a little.

Personally, I have it in my mind to put in at least 15 minutes of work on my body every day, during which I do a little meditation and mental repair. And it works pretty well.

Actually 10 minutes a day is enough. Yes, we are all busy. But I think we can all work 10 minutes into our schedule to work out. If you can’t do it every day, don’t sweat it. Set aside that 10 minutes as often as you can.

This 10 minutes will do far more good than hours-long session with a drill sergeant, or even 45 minutes on a stationary bike, or 30 minutes on a treadmill. Unless you do it right, that monotony on the treadmill or repetitive cycling is just a waste of time.

I say 10 minutes, because that’s the amount of time studied by scientists at McMaster University in Canada.

They took 25 out-of-shape young men, and got some of them to do a 45-minute moderate workout on a stationary bike three times a week, plus 5 minutes of warmup and cooldown. Then they took the others and got them to do a 10-minute workout three times a week. (A few others still did nothing, to provide a base rate). They got them to do this all for 12 weeks.

The 10-minute workout took the following form, on a stationary bike:

  • 2 mins warmup at slow pace
  • 20 secs sprint all out
  • 2 mins v slow pace
  • 20 secs sprint all out
  • 2 mins slow riding
  • 20 secs sprint all out
  • 3 mins cool down at slow pace

After three months, they checked out how everybody had done. Surprise, surprise, those that just sat around on the couch hadn’t got any fitter. But the group who rode the bike for 45 minutes x 3 per week, with a five-minute warmup and cooldown, had got fitter at exactly the same rate as those who had done the 10-minute workout x 3 per week.

The same results. Yet over those three months, the group doing high-intensity sprints had exercised for six hours (10 mins x 3 times per week x 12). Those doing the longer, steady cardio workout had exercised for 30 hours (50 mins x3 x 12). And they got exactly the same benefit.

In other words, the long-distance bike riders spent 24 more hours, an entire day, spinning their wheels. They could have been in and out of the gym in less than 15 minutes, with time for a chat at the water cooler.

In fact, the hectic part of the workout for the sprinters lasted exactly 1 minute. Just 60 seconds. Three times a week.

I lied a little at the start of this post. There will be a little pain. Those 60 seconds will be a challenge. Time slows down when you’re going all out. It will hurt, a little.

But then it’s out of the way. You can get on with the rest of your day, energized from the exercise.

If I invest 15 minutes of work in my body (while also repairing my mind), I find that I’m full of bounce for the entire day. If I don’t, I’m sluggish, and around about 4 p.m. I really need a nap. That, or 4 cups of coffee.

Mid Age Man has not invented this strategy. These short workouts with intense bursts equate to High Intensity Interval Training, or HITT. You’ve probably heard about it – it’s immensely popular right now.

And for good reason. It really works. It elevates your metabolism, and ensures you burn calories for the next 24 and even 48 hours. You can exercise for short blocks and get a wonderful return.

This high-intensity exercise can also take any form. You can do it on a rowing machine. You can do it in the pool. You can do it at the track. You can do it on a bike. You can do it with weights. You can do it at home, just with some stretching and using the mass of your own body as the “machine.”

I would highly recommend the Scientific 7-Minute Workout designed by Gretchen Reynolds for The New York Times, as I mentioned yesterday. This simple plan will give you a short, high-intensity workout wherever you are, be it at home, a hotel room, your office or outside.

And yes, there’s an app for that.

There you have it. You don’t need a personal trainer! You can do this all yourself, on your own.

Mid Age Man will have done its job if it gets that message out and it sinks in with one person. I hope that’s you.

Of course, if you need any help understanding or sticking to this program, we at Mid Age Man are also happy to help. We will pitch in with advice on sports nutrition. And we’ll chip in our two cents worth of work on mental strength, some of it gained from that meditative time working out, other parts drawn from the tenets of mindful thought, still others simply from life.

But one thing’s for sure. Mid Age Man is not going to stand over you barking orders for hours on end while you suffer so much that you don’t want to come back. It is counter-productive, and you will give up.

We are also not going to insist that you spend hours on end running on a treadmill, or riding a bike. You can do that if you like it, but the whole point is that we’re busy. Follow our strategy, and you can be done with your exercise in a quarter of an hour, and can get on with work, or shopping, or checking out #catsofinstagram. Whatever floats your boat.

You have this in you. You can Take Back Life. You can do it, 15 minutes at a time.

Time to start today?

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About the author

Alex McMillan

Alex McMillan

Head trainer at Mid Age Man. Alex believes there are four pillars to being healthy: physical fitness, sensible nutrition, mental strength, and wellbeing for your body and soul.

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