“Fitness” is an elusive term covering a vast array of attributes: flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, strength, power, balance, coordination, body-fat percentage and more. While its generally accepted that multiple 30-60 minute sessions per week are optimal for producing results, the truth is that it’s possible to do a great amount in far less time.
EVERYONE has five minutes a day…the only question is, can anything really useful be done in just 300 seconds?
The answer is a resounding “yes”, but we need choose our exercises carefully. If there is such a limited amount of time, the best choice is to pick the most important muscle group. Chest? Back? Shoulders? Legs? All wrong. The abdominals are the most important muscles in the body. In no particular order, they:
1) Protect the low back.
2) Are vital to sports performance, transferring power from the lower to upper body.
3) Aid digestion, and massage the internal organs.
4) Are important for proper, healthy sexual function.
5) Are “the window of health”—we judge fitness and health more rapidly with a glimpse at the waistline than any other single indication.
6) Are vital for posture, which increases physical energy and mood.
7) Are the linchpin of your entire fitness program. You’ve never seen someone with toned abdominal muscles and flabby arms and legs, have you? The reverse is not true.
8) Are the most important muscle group for physical attractiveness in men or women. No matter the wonderful definition of arms or legs, if your gut is sagging, you have a problem!
There are other reasons, but one of the best is the fact that of all body parts, the abs tend to be the least favorite body part to work. They’re hard! That reason alone should be enough to motivate you: anything other people don’t like working is a golden opportunity for you!
But how can you do anything useful in just five minutes? One daily approach is to perform five minutes of the toughest ab exercises you can find, and a fantastic tool for this is a “Roller Wheel” available for five dollars at any sporting goods store. Not the fancy ones, just the simple get-on-your-knees variety. Try this: perform one rep, and take a breath. Then do two reps, and take two breaths. Then three, and take three breaths…and so on until you can’t go any higher. Then, drop back to one rep, and start climbing again. When that gets easy, take one breath for every two reps.
An even better method is to break up your exercise into multiple daily sessions. The roller wheel is useful here as well, but you might want to investigate some of the powerful “Vacuum” exercises from yoga, or the dynamic-tension style “stomach flattening” exercises. In these, you exhale all air, and flex the abdominal muscles for several seconds. Believe me, if you do these properly, even without aerobic exercise your waistline will decrease!
While there is no serious disagreement that longer sessions produce better, and more balanced results, the busiest man or woman on earth can find five minutes a day…and sometimes, that toehold is what it takes to get you started on a new, healthier lifestyle.
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Steven Barnes CST is a NY Times bestselling author, dual black belt, yogi and Circular Strength Training instructor. He created the Five Minute Miracle exercise program. Learn more at www.lifewrite.com
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