15 minute workouts to improve your strength, fitness and balance

Wanted to get fit doing as little exercise as possible? Don't we all! We've got just the regime for you...

15 minute workouts

Yes, it is possible! These 15 minute workouts will help shape up your body, health and happiness.

Regular exercise isn’t just about getting a beach-ready body. It’s about keeping fit and healthy through the years. And that doesn’t mean sweating away for hours and spending a fortune on gym membership or kit, either.

Our bodies are designed to move, says Dr Melanie Wynne-Jones. ‘Regular exercise helps to ward off heart disease, diabetes, dementia, many cancers and depression. So we can all benefit from doing as much as possible to maintain our strength, balance, flexibility and mental wellbeing.’ Try one of these 10- to 15-minute weight loss exercises every day – once in the morning and once in the evening.

Strength exercises

Why? To help strengthen muscle and bone. Both naturally decrease as we age, further accelerated by falling hormone levels at menopause. (opens in new tab)

From the age of 40 we lose around 90g of muscle a year, which rises to 500g from the age of 50. Healthy bone and muscle is essential to reduce your risk of falls and fractures, but also crucial for metabolism, fat burning and blood-sugar regulation, as well as improved cognitive ability. ‘Strength exercises can help delay the rate of age-related bone loss,’ says Craig Sale, professor of Human Physiology at Nottingham Trent University.

The 15 minute workout routine to increase your strength:

✿ Do 10 star jumps

✿ Do 10 wall presses - Place your hands flat against a wall at chest height from an arm’s length away. Slowly bend your arms and move your face as close to the wall as possible, keeping your back straight. Slowly return to your starting position.Do 10 repetitions.

✿ Do 10 star jumps

✿ Do 20 bicep curls - Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a food can or 500ml bottle of water in each hand, with arms down by your side. Bend your elbows to lift the ‘weight’ to your shoulder. Slowly lower. Repeat for 10 curls.Rest for 30 seconds then repeat for 10 more curls.

✿ Do 10 star jumps

✿ Repeat 10 wall presses

✿ Repeat 20 bicep curls

15 minute workouts

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✿ Repeat the whole of the routine above once more, replacing the star jumps with hopping on alternate legs.

Exercise for fitness

Why? Cardiovascular exercise raises your heart rate and is essential for a healthy heart, cardiovascular system and lungs. ‘Just two miles of walking a day has been shown to decrease heart risk by 30 to 40 per cent,’ says Mark Fenton, author of The Complete Guide to Walking (£16.99, Lyons Press). But pace is key. Researchers from Tufts University in Massachusetts, USA, found that adults who walked faster than 3mph had a 50 per cent lower risk of heart disease than peers who walked slower than 2mph.

Walking also builds muscle and bone, and is great for burning excess calories (opens in new tab) to help maintain a healthy weight and improving stamina and balance. Regular walking is a great mood booster, too – recent research suggests it may be as effective as antidepressants at helping mild to moderate depression.

The 15 minute workout routine to increase your fitness:

✿ 15-minute brisk walking

✿ Try to keep your pace up so you cover at least one mile in that time.

✿ If you can’t maintain this speed at first try ‘interval training’, where you walk at your ‘normal’ pace for two minutes, then speed up as much as you can for 30 seconds. Keep repeating the pattern for 15 minutes.

Walking guru Nina Barough, creator of the famous MoonWalk and Walk the Walk Breast Cancer charity, advises going at a comfortable pace if you’re just starting out. ‘Be sensible – know your own capabilities. Go at a pace that’s comfortable but push a little bit.’

Exercises to reduce stress

Why? Breathing exercises and/or meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety, and may also help lower blood pressure and improve your happiness and wellbeing. ‘We’re constantly in a low-level version of the fight-or-flight response as a result of rushing around,’ says breathing expert Alan Dolan (breathguru.com). But taking deep, conscious breaths can help get your breathing back on track and may even help with pain, says osteopath Nick Potter, who specialises in pain management. ‘Shallow, erratic breathing or breath holding (which we do sometimes without realising in response to stress) can make pain worse by making us tense our muscles.’

The 15 minute workout routine to reduce stress:

✿ Box breathing

✿ Breathe out slowly to the count of four.

✿ Keep your lungs empty for the count of four.

✿ Breathe in slowly to the count of four.

✿ Keep your lungs full for the count of four.

✿ Repeat this pattern for five to 15 minutes to help calm you.

If you’re feeling anxious, follow this routine for five minutes to feel calmer. The US Navy SEALS are taught this technique for stressful situations. Do it longer for more meditative benefits.

15 minute workouts

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Fast Exercise: How to fit in just 10 minutes

Think you'll struggle to find 15 minutes for a workout? Then you'll be pleased to hear Dr Michael Moseley (the creator of the Fast Diet, AKA the 5:2 Diet, one of the diets that work fast (opens in new tab) for results) has also created Fast Exercise - a routine that can be carried out in just 10 mins, and it looks easy to stick to.

Along with journalist Peta Bee, Dr Moseley's book explains how adding HIT (High Intensity Training) weight loss exercise into your day, whether you work in an office, stay at home all day or have the opportunity to get out and about, can help you lose weight and feel revitalised. These include:

  • Cycling
  • Running outside
  • Running on a treadmill
  • Stair running
  • Cross-training
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Skipping

There's a range of different patterns you can follow with the Fast Exercise regime, but it's good to mix them up a little so your body doesn't get used to the exercise.

15 minute workouts

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40 seconds' hard exercise: The lightest of the suggested routines involves 40 seconds of hard exercise ('hard exercise' literally means pushing yourself as hard as you can!), then the intervals at a slower pace. You will need to warm up, but will then carry out 20 seconds of hard exercise, followed by a rest at a slower pace and then another 20 seconds of hard exercise. Good activities to take up here are cycling, swimming, running or if you're at work or home all day, try running up the stairs.

30-second sprinter: The next step up involves sprinting on a bike, running or any other hard exercise for four 30-second bursts. You'll need to warm up and then do gentle exercise in between for three minutes this time to ensure your heart gets up to speed then slows again, giving an effective work out!

60-second workout: It's getting much harder now! The third regime tells you to sprint for 60 seconds at a time with 90 second breaks in between. During these breaks, you will need to continue exercising, but walking instead of running is fine, for example.

Fat Burner: Designed specifically to shed the pounds rather than pushing your lungs to capacity, the Fat Burner routine uses much shorter bursts of exercise - just eight seconds at a time, followed by a 12-second rest. You'll need to following this pattern for a maximum of five minutes then gradually build it up over time to 20 minutes.

4-minute pelter: The 4-minute pelter has no breaks - you just hammer one of the activities on full sprint for four minutes after warming up. Not for the faint-hearted!

Fast ladder: The Fast Ladder will build strength and can be used alongside any of the activity-based regimes. Choose four exercises from squats, jumping jacks, press ups, abdominal crunches, step ups on chair, tricep dips, plank, high knee running, side plank, lunges, shuttle runs and repeat each ten times, then nine times and reduce until you're only doing each once.

Fast Exercise (Short Books, £7.99) is available from Amazon (opens in new tab).

Just Remember to… Consult your GP before starting any new exercise routine. If you find any exercise difficult, stop – don’t do the full routine, do what you can manage and build up slowly.

Tanya Pearey has been a writer and editor in the health, fitness and lifestyle field for the past 25 years. She has a wealth of experience and a bulging contacts book of experts in the wellness field. She writes regularly for women’s lifestyle titles including Woman & Home, Woman’s Weekly, Woman and Woman’s Own. She has also written for newspapers including The Daily Mail and Daily Express, and women’s magazines in Australia where she spent a year working. She also writes regular travel pieces. Tanya is an avid runner - lover of Parkruns and half marathons. She completed the London Marathon in under four hours – but that was 20 years ago and she hasn’t been brave enough to run that far again since! She’s a keen tennis player and walker – having climbed Kilimanjaro and the UK’s three highest peaks - Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike.