Weekend warriors take note: New research shows that even a single weekly workout has serious benefits for your heart and brain—and can significantly reduce your mortality risk, too.
A study published in Brain Plasticity found that just one aerobic exercise session had profound effects on mood, executive function, and brain chemistry. Another study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that those who exercised just once or twice a week were 30 percent less likely to die of any cause—and 40 percent less likely to die of heart disease—than those who were completely sedentary. The message to those who can only make it to the gym once or twice a week: “Don’t feel guilty,” says lead study author Gary O’Donovan, a researcher at Loughborough University in England. “Weekend warriors should keep up the good work,” he adds.
Not sure where to start? Try this full-body workout from Cris Dobrosielski, a spokesman for the American Council on Exercise and the owner of Monumental Results in San Diego. In just three sequences of resistance-based exercises, you’ll work all of the major muscle groups. Done with minimal rest between sessions, it also incorporates aerobic elements that increase heart rate and offer cardiovascular benefits. “By itself, this is a great single workout for the week,” says Dobrosielski.
The One and Done Workout
5 to10 minutes on a stationary bike or treadmill (easy effort)
Resistance Sequence 1:
Do one set of 8 to 12 reps of each of the following exercises.
Equipment needed: None | Body parts worked: Hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Extend your arms out in front of you. Keeping your chest up and eyes ahead, lower your butt toward the floor, bending your knees until they reach 90 degrees. Press back up through your heels.
Equipment needed: Barbell or hand weights, bench | Body parts worked: Pectorals (chest), triceps, anterior deltoids (front of shoulders), latissimus dorsi (lats)
Lie face up on a box or flat bench, and grip a barbell (or free weights), making sure your hands are slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Press your feet into the ground and your hips into the bench while lifting the bar off the rack. Slowly lower the bar (or weights) to your chest by allowing your elbows to bend out to the side. Stop when your elbows are just below the bench. Press your feet into the floor as you push the weight up and return to the starting position.
Equipment needed: None | Body parts worked: Abdominals, obliques, hips
Lie down on the ground on your stomach. Push up onto your forearms and toes, keeping your back and hips parallel with the floor. Pull your abs in toward your spine and squeeze your glutes for added stability. Hold for 20 seconds, then lower and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat.
Stationary Bike or Treadmill
1 to 2 minutes at moderate to high intensity.
Repeat Sequence 1 (including bike and rest)
Resistance Sequence 2:
Do 8 to 12 reps of each of these exercises
Equipment needed: None | Body parts worked: Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves
Stand with your chest up and eyes ahead, then step two to three feet forward with your right foot. Allow both knees to bend until your front knee is at about a 90-degree angle, with your knee behind your toes, and your back knee is a few inches above the floor. Press into your right foot, and press back to start. Repeat, stepping forward with your left foot, alternating legs with each rep.
Equipment needed: Pull-up bar | Body parts worked: Upper body, primarily the latissimus dorsi, trapezius and deltoids
Stand under the bar with your arms overhead and your palms facing away from you. Lift your body off the floor to grasp the bar firmly. In a slow and controlled manner, bend the elbows to pull your body upward. Continue pulling until your chin is level with the bar or your hands. Pause, then slowly return to your starting position, allowing your elbows to fully straighten.
Equipment needed: None | Body parts worked: glutes, abs, hamstrings, adductors
Lie on your back on the floor in a bent-knee position with your feet flat on the floor. Place your feet hip-width apart with the toes facing away from you. Keeping the abdominals engaged, lift your hips up off the floor until your back is flat. Slowly lower yourself back to your starting position.
Stationary Bike or Treadmill
1 to 2 minutes at moderate- to high-intensity
Repeat Sequence 2 (including bike and rest)
Resistance Sequence 3:
Do 8 to 12 reps of each of these exercises.
Equipment needed: Step or low bench | Body parts worked: Quads, knee and hip joints
Stand with your feet parallel and hip-width apart. Place your right foot on the step, then push off with your left leg, placing that foot alongside your right one. To lower, slowly step down with your left foot, and follow with your right. (You can up the intensity by holding a dumbbell in each hand for added resistance.) Do 8 to12 reps leading with your right foot, then 8 to 12 reps leading with your left foot.
Mid-Rows With Resistance Band
Equipment needed: Resistance band (or pulley row machine) |Body parts worked: All of the major muscles in your back, plus shoulder and chest muscles
Sit on a box, planting your feet flat in front of you and maintaining a slight bend in your knees. Loop a resistance band around a sturdy pole in front of you, and grab one end in each hand. With your arms extended, pull back until your torso is at a 90-degree angle from your legs. This is the starting position for the exercise. Pull the band back toward your torso until you touch your abdominals. Hold that contraction for a second,then slowly extend your arms until you reach the starting position.
Back Extensions on a Stability Ball
Equipment needed: Stability ball | Body parts worked: Back, glutes
Lie facedown on a stability ball, hands behind your head. Squeeze your glutes and lift your torso up until your body forms a straight line. Hold for one or two seconds. Slowly return to start.
Stationary Bike or Treadmill
1 to 2 minutes at moderate-to-high intensity
Repeat Sequence 3
5 minutes on a stationary bike or treadmill (easy effort)
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.