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The Best 11-Minute Exercise Routine to Fight Fat, Science Says

These simple bodyweight moves can improve your cardiorespiratory fitness and get you into shape—fast.

A telling sign that you need to step up your physical activity is having to stop to catch your breath while walking up a flight or two of stairs. Poor cardiorespiratory fitness—aka huffing and puffing after minor physical exertion, like climbing steps—is a classic symptom of being overweight and/or in not-so-great heart health.

But, new research demonstrates that just 11 minutes of exercise performed at home can significantly improve your fitness level. The study, which was conducted by researchers in the department of kinesiology at Canada's McMaster University and published in the International Journal of Exercise Science, compared two groups of inactive young adults: a training group that followed a specific exercise program and a control group that didn't exercise at all. The training group worked out three times a week for six weeks—with each session lasting only 11 minutes total. Each session involved bodyweight moves (no equipment necessary!) that were done vigorously for one minute each, followed by a 60-second active rest period.

At the end of the six weeks, researchers measured participants' VO2 max, or maximal oxygen consumption, while performing an exercise of increasing intensity. This gold-standard test of fitness and heart health shows how well your heart and veins can push blood throughout your body. The study showed that just 18 workouts of only 11 minutes in duration significantly improved fitness level (VO2 max) by an average of 7%.

"These findings have relevance for individuals seeking practical, time-efficient approaches to exercise, a quest that is particularly challenging during a global pandemic," the researchers wrote.

Not only does this study nix the common excuses that you can't find the time, access to equipment, or the right place to exercise, it also shows that an 11-minute workout performed three times a week can help improve your physical ability. If you're determined to no longer huff and puff when you take the stairs—or lose weight and get into shape—this workout can be the key to getting started. Keep reading to find out exactly how to do it.

11-Minute Cardiorespiratory Fitness Workout

Woman doing butt squats

Here's the exact exercise the study used so you can follow it at home:

Warm-up: 1-minute of jumping jacks
Vigorous exercise: 1-minute of modified burpees without push-ups
Recovery: 1-minute of walking in place
Vigorous exercise: 1-minute of high knee running in place
Recovery: 1-minute of walking in place
Vigorous exercise: 1-minute of split squat jumps
Recovery: 1-minute of walking in place
Vigorous exercise: 1-minute of high knee running in place
Recovery: 1-minute of walking in place
Vigorous exercise: 1-minute of squat jumps
Cool-down: 1-minute of walking in place

Now, here's exactly how to do each move…

Jumping Jacks

jumping jack

Just as you learned in grade school gym class: Stand tall, feet together, arms at your sides. Quickly jump and spread your feet wide while simultaneously swinging arms over your head, touching fingertips to fingertips. Jump back to the starting position. Since it's pretty hard to perform jumping jacks vigorously, this exercise is ideal as a warm-up. Do it for 60 seconds.

Related: The Best Way to Instantly Improve Your Workout Performance, Science Says

Modified Burpees


Burpees are tough, but if you eliminate the push-up part, they're a little easier and can be done even more aggressively. Stand tall, arms at your sides, feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees to squat down and place your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders. Jump your feet back and together to get into a high plank with your back flat and body straight from head to heels. Engage your abs. Next, jump your feet in, so they land outside of your hands. Make sure your heels are flat on the ground. Finally, explosively press your feet into the floor to jump, bringing your feet together and your arms straight over your head. Return to the starting position and repeat for 60 seconds.

Related: Explosive New Study Says Exercise Can Stop Cancer In Its Tracks

High Knees

high knees

This is simply running in place while lifting your knees up as high as possible. Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart. Lift your right knee toward your chest then quickly place it back on the ground.  As soon as your foot touches ground, lift your left knee toward your chest and so on. Keep up this exaggerated run in place as fast as you can for 60 seconds before walking to recover for a minute.

Related: This 15-Minute Workout Can Add Years to Your Life

Split Squat Jumps

Woman doing lunges in a gym

Stand in a staggered stance, your left foot two to three feet in front of your right foot. Place your hands on your hips. This is the starting position. Keeping your torso upright, bend your knees and drop your hips and then jump up, switching leg positions in the air so your right foot lands about 3 feet in front of the left. Bend your knees, then immediately jump up and switch legs again. Keep alternating splits for 60 seconds.

Related: The Best Way to Get a Lean Body After 50, Science Says

Squat Jumps


Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Begin by doing a regular squat: Sit your butt back and bend your knees until your thighs are almost parallel with the floor. As you squat push your hands behind you to "load your body so that you can create power to explode out of the squat and into the air. Swing your arms upward to create momentum as you explosively press into the floor with your feet. Your arms should be straight above your head at the top of the jump. As you descend into the next squat, swing your arms down and behind you. Repeat the squat jump for 60 seconds. Then cool down by walking in place for a minute.

Want to do more? Try these 4 Exercise Tricks for Slimming Down after 50, and sign up for our newsletter for the latest health and fitness news!

Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Read more about Jeff
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