How to get fit in just 7 minutes! As a study finds half of women do no regular exercise at all, LUCY WYNDHAM-READ shares her workout tips
We all know the feeling; you want to exercise, yet the idea of squeezing in a trip to the gym, or even going out for a run, feels all but impossible.
For so many women, exercise is something we know we ought to do but is always put to the bottom of the list when you have a job, home and often childcare to juggle.
So it was no surprise to me to hear that a study has revealed that 47 per cent of women in the UK — almost half of us! — say they don’t do any kind of regular exercise at all.
During lockdown, I posted a series of seven-minute exercise videos on YouTube all designed to be super easy and aimed at women of any age, shape, size and fitness level. To my delight, those videos went viral and got more than two million views — overtaking even Joe Wicks!
But that was when we were stuck at home with time on our hands. My worry is that now life is back to normal, exercise may have taken a back seat in so many women’s lives.
One problem is the official government recommendations. When you’re juggling the demands of work and family, the thought of 150 minutes of activity a week (30 minutes, five times a week) can seem ridiculous. OK, so 75 minutes a week meets official health targets if you exercise ‘vigorously’ — but that sounds like a world of pain and sweat. Besides, it’s quite clear that this kind of official advice has fallen on deaf ears.
During lockdown, Lucy Wyndham-Read, pictured, posted a series of seven-minute exercise videos on YouTube all designed to be super easy and aimed at women of any age, shape, size and fitness level. To her delight, those videos went viral and got more than two million views — overtaking even Joe Wicks!
In my 25 years as a fitness trainer, I’ve learned one thing, and that is women hate doing burpees — where you jump in the air, go down into a press-up and back up again; we’ll avoid high-impact exercise if we can and we’re not too happy about the idea of lifting weights, either.
For many, gyms can be very off-putting. Seeing physical perfection and bulging muscles can be extremely intimidating if you’re a little overweight, you’re not up to date with the latest trends in active wear, or don’t know where the ‘on’ switch is on the elliptical trainer. And frankly, that’s most women!
As for working out at home, all too often those ‘beginner’ online videos assume a level of knowledge or body awareness that many people — particularly those who have never exercised — don’t have.
Take the ‘plank’, for instance. It may appear straightforward, supporting yourself on your hands and toes on the floor while keeping your body in a straight line.
But it is difficult to get right, and until you’re strong enough to hold the line, it can put pressure on your lower back. It’s not even a good way to work your stomach muscles — standing exercises are much more effective.
I believe the key to getting everyone moving is finding ways to build activity into your life.
That means upping your daily step count and getting into the habit of running through a few short routines.
At 51, this is how I’ve kept strong and healthy as I’ve got older. The most effective exercises are ‘composite’ ones, which work lots of different muscles at the same time.
I have discovered that seven minutes is the perfect amount of time to exercise (five minutes just seems too short, and ten minutes can feel arduous). I always say that everyone can find seven minutes a day in their life, and it’s enough time to get results.
If you do the right exercises in that time, you really can boost your fitness, build strength, lift your mood and even lose weight.
Take my single favourite exercise of all — standing leg kicks (see above). It helps build strength in your arm and leg muscles, works your abdominals and your buttocks, hones your balance and raises your heart rate to boost fitness and burn calories.
You can do it anywhere, any time, with no need for special equipment or unforgiving Lycra. It may look simple, but it is powerfully effective. The key is exercising without even knowing you’re doing it. My motto is keep it simple and keep it doable — just as long as you do something! We have to invest in our health — that has to come first.
I’ve had emails from people who started exercising only in their late 70s after finding my workouts, and say they are feeling better than they have done in years. The minute you start moving your body, you’ll feel better — and everyone’s got a spare seven minutes at some point in their day.
Here are two of my favourite workouts — one you can do sitting at your desk or in front of the TV, and another which will give you an all-body workout and raise your metabolic rate in just seven minutes.
Warm up before you start by marching on the spot for 30 seconds, then work through the exercises in order. Keep going with each one for a full minute, then stretch your muscles when you have finished.
- For more information and to access free fitness videos, type Lucy Wyndham-Read into YouTube.
SEVEN-MINUTE CALORIE BURN
This supercharges your metabolism and helps burn calories.
MINUTE 1: LEG KICKS. Stand up with tummy tucked in and buttocks squeezed. Swing one leg up as high as you can, keeping it straight, and stretch your left hand forwards aiming to touch the foot before bringing it back down. Alternate kicking on each side as many times as possible in 60 seconds. This raises your heart rate and builds core and abdominal strength as well as helping with balance and flexibility
MINUTE 2: WAIST WHITTLER. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms crossed over your chest, then bend towards the right from your waist, reaching your right hand out and down. Return to centre and alternate sides for 60 seconds. This tones the oblique muscles which run down the side of the waist, building core mobility and stabilising muscles
MINUTE 3: LUNGE TO KICK. With feet wider than hip-width apart, lunge your right leg behind you, with a 90-degree bend in your left leg in front. Kick your right leg out in front as you come back to standing. Repeat for 30 seconds on the same leg, then change legs for the final 30 seconds
MINUTE 4: SPEED SKATER. Swing your right leg behind you, bending the left leg as you bring your right arm forwards and take your left arm back. Then hop to change sides — left leg behind you, left arm forwards. Switch sides like a speed skater, keeping the movement fluid for 60 seconds
MINUTE 5: SIDE SHUFFLE. Start in a squat, knees and hips bent, hands lightly clasped in front. Staying low, step sideways a couple of paces to the right. Feel the stretch in the side of your leg as you move. Bring your feet together between each pace. Repeat to the left. Continue, alternating sides, for 60 seconds
MINUTE 6: PUNCH & CRUNCH. With legs wide, bring fists close to the body, with elbows out. Punch one arm out straight, then the other, four times. Now lift right knee as high as you can. Draw both arms tight to your sides. Step the right foot back, then bring it back up into another knee crunch. Do four on each side for 30 seconds
MINUTE 7: STEP IN & OUT. Stand with arms by sides. Step right foot out, then the left, and lift arms above head. Step feet back in and lower arms. Then step feet out and raise hands to shoulder height. Step back to start position. Repeat for 60 seconds
SEVEN-MINUTE SEATED WORKOUT
If you have a disability, injury or painful joints, this is the workout for you — it will strengthen muscles and boost heart health. Sit tall, tummy tucked in, shoulders back and feet on the ground, hip-width apart . . .
MINUTE 1: RUN PUNCH. Punch your arms continuously straight out in front of you, keeping your fists at shoulder level, for ten counts. Switch to ‘running arms’ pumping your arms back and forth as runners do, for ten counts. Alternate between punching and running arms for 60 seconds
MINUTE 2: TUMMY TWISTER. Place your fingertips on your temples, your elbows wide and in line with your shoulders. Now twist to the right from the waist, so your right elbow reaches behind you. Change sides and keeping belly button pulled in, alternate side twists for 60 seconds
MINUTE 3: SPRINT SWIM. Stretch both arms in front of you at chest height, palms down. As if you were doing breastroke, pull your arms back in an outwards circular motion, drawing your elbows back and squeezing shoulder blades together, returning to the start position. Repeat for 60 seconds without letting your arms drop below shoulder level
MINUTE 4: POWER KICKS. Make your hands into fists and hold them just in front of your shoulders, elbows pointing behind you, then punch one arm straight forwards at chest height while kicking out the opposite leg, if you can (aiming to get your leg parallel to the ground or higher). Switch to the other hand/leg and continue alternating for 60 seconds
MINUTE 5: CRUNCH & TWIST. Bring your hands behind your head, palms facing forwards and elbows bent in line with your shoulders. Raise your left foot off the ground, lifting your knee up if you can, and, at the same time, twist to your left from the waist. Hold for a second, then return to the start position and switch sides. Repeat for 60 seconds, keeping your back straight and your stomach muscles tight as you twist
MINUTE 6: THUMBS UP. Sit with chest lifted, shoulders back and down. Extend arms out in front of you, thumbs pointing up. With control, take both arms out to either side so you are lifting and opening through the chest. Return to start position then, keeping hands close together, lift your arms above your head. Hold for a second without arching your back. Continue the move for 60 seconds
MINUTE 7: CUPID’S ARROW. Extend your right arm straight out in front of you and pull your left arm back (elbow high, hand by your shoulder) as if you are shooting a bow and arrow. Now change arms, pulling back the straight arm and extending the other one forwards. Keep alternating for 60 seconds, twisting from the waist, not your neck