One-Minute Workouts

The idea is to interrupt your workday periodically and do a full minute of vigorous exercise. Six times a day would be awesome. I’m working toward once an hour.

Here’s the rationale:

  • Exercise is the single most important thing we can do to improve our quality of life, keep our enthusiasm up, and banish depression.
  • For longevity, exercise is second only in importance to weight control.
  • Many people don’t exercise because they “don’t have time”. Well, these are exercises you can with no investment in time.
  • Exercise triggers avoidance reactions for many people. You know yourself well. For some, it’s easier to commit to a ritual trip to the gym or jog around the neighborhood or yoga before breakfast. For others, the barrier will be lower if you know it’s over in just one minute.I must say that in trying to implement this program myself, I constantly find that it’s difficult to tear myself away from what I’m doing, to interrupt my train of thought. However, I’m almost always glad that I did, because I’m more alert, the thoughts are fresher and more creative after just one vigorous minute.
  • Recent research suggests that, even for people who exercise regularly, hours of sitting poses an independent risk factor.
  • Interval training is a super-efficient way to exercise [Ref 1; Ref 2Ref 3;  Ref 4]. If you’re able to go all-out for periods of a minute or so, working so hard that your heart is pounding and you can’t catch your breath, the CV benefits compare favorably to much longer periods of modest aerobic exercise.

You don’t have to do your one minute as a painful all-out exertion, but if you’re inclined in that direction, the one minute intervals work well.

Here’s a suggestion for how to begin:  Try choosing one of these exercise minutes before every meal.  Vigorous exercise before eating signals the insulin metabolism to burn the energy you are about to consume, rather than store it as fat.

Here are 16 suggested workouts to choose from.  They all require minimal equipment, and can be done in a few square feet in an office or living room.  Mix them up throughout the day.  Some are relatively more accessible than others.  A minute of pull-ups, for example, is a feat of strength that I personally would have to work up to for quite a while.  Maybe in such cases half a minute is enough.

Note: some of these exercises come from the tradition of Kundalini Yoga.  They are accompanied by vigorous breathing.  There are two types of kundalini breathing.  Both involve motion of the stomach only, while the chest and ribcage remain relaxed.  Type 1 (called kapalabhati) is a vigorous exhalation, followed by a passive inhalation as the stomach pops back out of its own accord.  Try coughing with a hand on your belly to get a feel for it.  Type 2 (called bhastrika) is vigorous on both the inhalation and exhalation, pumping the stomach out as well as in, rapidly.

One-minute workouts – a list of exercises

     0.  Stairs are a terrific resource – available almost everywhere people live and work.
Walk or run up, and a minute will feel like a good workout.

  1. Jump rope (you can use an imaginary rope in a pinch)

  2. Sun salutations (from the Hatha yoga tradition)

  3. Kundalini breathing with clasped hands, raised and lowered.
    Extend both arms out in front, both thumbs down, right wrist over left wrist
    Clasp hands, palm to palm
    Inhale and raise straight arms overhead
    Exhale forcibly from the abdomen bringing straight arms down to your lap

  4. Kundalini breathing with knee bends

    Squat with both hands on the ground outside your knees
    Exhale forcibly as you straighten legs, keeping hands on the ground (or close)
    Inhale passively as you return to squatting, catching weight in your hands
    on the way down, (but using legs only on the way up).

  5. Jumping jacks

  6. Pushups  (use handles if you like to avoid wrist strain)

  7. Pullups (chinning bars install in doorways)

  8. Touch opposite toes

Stand with the legs apart, arms extended horizontally
Bend from the waist, knees straight, touching left foot with right hand  (or as far in that direction as flexibility permits)
Lift from the lower back coming up to position one
Repeat alternating left and right

9. Situps or crunches

10. Lie on back, raise legs and arms  to vertical.  Replace legs and stretch arms overhead on the floor.  For extra credit, you can dig heels into the floor and raise tail between leg lifts.

11.  “Marching” from pushup position

alternate sides

12.  Chorus line  

 Step back, right knee to the ground.
Stand and kick right foot to left hand.
Alternate sides.


13.  Pilates ‘swimming’

Lying on stomach, alternately
raise R-hand, L-leg, then
L-hand, R-leg

14. (Kundalini variation)  Body in “planck pose” with straight back, extended legs.
Lift R hand, L leg,  then L hand, R leg   alternating


15.  (The longest minute) Raise both arms overhead and shake hands vigorously from the wrists, while breathing bastrikha style as fast as possible.

16.  Sit on the floor with extended legs.

Place hands on the floor behind you, fingers pointed forward.

Lift the tail up off the floor.

Alternately raise the legs and replace them.


2 thoughts on “One-Minute Workouts

  1. Excellent post regarding working out and how essential exercise is to the body. One thing to keep in mind when performing these workouts would be to make sure the proper equipment is in place. For example, if the wrong flooring is in place, whether at the gym or at home, this could produce additional stress and shocks to the body. By having the correct equipment, such as flooring, mats, etc., this will ensure the fitness lover/doer that the healthiest, most productive workout possible is being done.

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