7 Minimalist Workouts to Kick-Start Your Fitness


The stakes are high.

We each get one life and one body to live it in. It is vitally important to take good care of it.

One of the growing trends in fitness is the emergence of minimalist workouts: strategic, high-intensity workouts that intentionally utilize a variety of muscles in a short time span. Fortunately, there is various research that validates their claims of effectiveness. Recently published studies seem to indicate that 12-minutes/week of high-intensity exercise may have the same physiological benefits as sustained endurance exercise.

Now, it is important to note the researchers understand “their 12-minute program is only a suggestion for how people can make a kick-start for better fitness.” And research has yet to determine the long-term benefits of the shrinking doses of exercise.

But a minimalist exercise routine is far better than no exercise routine.

And if you are looking for a short exercise routine to kick-start your personal fitness, they are a great place to start. Here then, are a number of minimalist workout programs. I encourage you to discover one that provides the motivation and opportunity to kick-start your fitness.

7 Minimalist Workouts to Kick-Start Your Fitness

1. The 4-Minute Workout | New York Times. This short, but strenuous workout can effectively be practiced anywhere. After warming up, the aim of the workout is to raise your heart rate to 90 percent of its maximal rate for one four-minute interval followed by a brief cool-down. This can be accomplished through running sprints, climbing steps, bicycling, swimming, or even walking briskly. The 4-minute workout should be completed three times a week.

2. The Scientific 7-Minute Workout | New York Times. This 7-minute workout employs 12 body weight exercises but results in the latest mandates for high-intensity effort. Each exercise is performed for 30 seconds with a 10 second rest in-between each. You can find the 12 specific exercises listed above or download the app.

3. Couch to 5k | Cool Running. The goal of the Couch to 5K Training Program is to help beginning runners achieve a goal of running their first 5K within two months. The 9-week program combines walking and jogging for 20-30 minutes three times a week. Again, you can find the program details listed above or download the app.

4. Exercise Bliss | Fitness Reloaded. Exercise Bliss makes exercise a lasting habit in just 5 minutes a day, 5 times a week. It is free to join and the routines are delivered directly to your inbox. As an added bonus, this minimalist workout offers more than simple exercise programs, it also focuses on helping people build the fitness habit for life.

5. Beginner Body Weight Workout | Nerd Fitness. The Beginner’s Body Weight Workout is a basic workout that can be completed in your house, apartment, or at a park. The routine is a bit longer than some of the others on this list, but if you are looking for more of a challenge, you will enjoy it. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits offers a similar formula.

6. Geek-to-Freak | Tim Ferriss. For a more advanced workout, the Geek-to-Freak Minimalist Workout popularized in The 4-Hour Body is the first minimalist exercise routine I followed. And I found it to be very effective. I could complete an entire workout in 40-minutes, two times a week at my local gym. You can find the specific exercises here, but should read this introduction to the philosophy first.

7. 10-Minute Yoga | Steve Ross. There are numerous opportunities online to be introduced to the world of yoga in 10 minute intervals. While stretching the body and exercising muscles, yoga can also improve breathing, balance, and the handling of stress. Again, you can find numerous instructors online, but I find the video linked here to be easy-to-follow and challenging. I highly recommend it.

As you know, our physical health is important. It forms the foundation for our well-being. And we ought to take great care of the body we have been given. I do hope one or two of the minimalist workouts listed above will resonate with you and help kick-start your fitness.

Disclaimer: Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Totally agree that ANY exercise program is better than no exercise program. That said, I believe there are no short cuts to living a healthy lifestyle that engages the mind, spirit and body. Exercise is enjoyable. I shoot for 1.5 to 2 hours a day on my bike. During that time, I chant in a Taize fashion and live for that very moment. There are enough hours in each day to devote time to exercise. I also agree with the title on Joyce Rupp’s memoir of her journey on the Camino de Santiago: “Walk in a Relaxed Manner.”

    • says

      2 hours a day of cycling is pretty hardcore. Personally I like a mix of running, push ups and pull ups when I’m not hitting the gym – it’s guaranteed to make you super fit in the minimum time, which is what minimalism is all about!


      • shebolt says

        Not really. I do a minimum of 1.5 hours on a bike 5 to 6 days a week, and it really is the best part of most of my days. There is something about riding a bike that I can’t get from running, going to the gym, or anything else. Is it minimalist? No. But it’s exactly how I want to spend my time, which is what the essence of minimalism is about.

  2. says

    I completely agree with this post – you do not need hours and hours of working out in order to be healthy and feel better about your body. Eating healthy and working out in small snatches throughout the day when you can find the time is as good as working out for 2 hours in the gym. Adding in little pockets of movements throughout the day helps as well – taking the stairs, or doing a 5 minute meditation after lunch at your desk. These are things that really add up.

  3. says

    Thanks, Joshua! This is very timely for me. I picked one out and committed to building a new habit with it like I have been meaning to do for some time now. Appreciate the gathering of simple options you provided here, as well as the rest of your blog posts. I’m a fan! Shalom aleichim (peace be upon you)!

  4. savitha says

    Thanks Joshua for putting together this list, Will pick something from this and start off. Have been struggling to start a workout for many years now.

  5. says

    Hi Joshua!

    Thanks for linking to Exercise Bliss! It’s a world-class, comprehensive course that helps people make exercise a lasting habit, so that they don’t need to push themselves to exercise, but instead exercise comes out naturally ;)

  6. says

    Thanks for these Joshua. I’ve found that as I’ve slowed down my life, doing less – I want to do things in ‘smaller packages’ so shorter classes & bite size routines work well for me. As I’m just starting my blog (inspired by people like you) I’m following the same principle…learning slowly: 20 mins a day etc. Thanks for all your posts on FB – they really are a joy for me – and my friends love them too. Maggie

  7. says

    For a minimalist workout I highly recommend purchasing a Fitbit Zip. It’s SO lightweight, barely bigger than a quarter….and it’s basically a pedometer on steroids. It tracks steps, calories burned, distance walked and it wirelessly syncs to your phone or laptop. On your online account you can view charts, graphs, track all kinds of info and even add friends and compete with each other!!
    I didn’t think it would work but it has really motivated me to make sure I’m getting at least 10,000 steps everyday (which is around 4.5 miles!)

  8. ADK says

    I loved this post – it was so practical and offered options that could be tailored to each individual.

    I have a question for you: how do you stay minimalistic regarding your energy/AC consumption during the hot months in Phoenix? We’re experiencing 3 digit temperatures in Texas right now and just the act of turning on my central AC is stressful.

  9. says

    Hi Joshua!
    Thanks for this great suggestions!
    After 25 years of training, I found myself approaching 40, trapped in an exercise rut.
    I was lifting weights six days per week, and squeezing in a little cardio here and there as time permitted (hating every minute of it). My body fat hovered around 15 percent, and my strength had plateaued years before. I was in decent shape for my age, but I wasn’t in GREAT shape. In fact I had never been in GREAT shape. To make matters worse, I was beleaguered with minor injuries, aches and pains. I felt beat up and was beginning to think it was time for me to seriously consider scaling back my fitness pursuits. To put it simply, I was as good as I was going to get, and it was all downhill from there.
    But I’m not one to easily give up. I began experimenting with various forms of training. I threw out all of the tired methods that myself and other so-called “fitness buffs” followed, and started over. I began training with former Navy SEALs, Russian Spetsnaz, college coaches and elite fitness professionals. I exchanged ideas and worked with respected coaches in combat sports. I researched the training habits of the old vaudevillian strongmen – pound for pound, some of the strongest humans to ever walk the planet. From these things, I took what I liked best, distilled it all, and began creating my own workout routines.

    The results were phenomenal. Through trial and error, I discovered the secrets of obtaining extraordinary fitness. As of this writing, I’m 44 years old and far fitter than I’ve EVER been in my life. I’m not just in great shape for my age, I’m in great shape for ANY age. Want proof? Watch the video below. Me at 44 years old:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJTau6Mr12I

  10. Sandra says

    I didn’t know that minimalism is also about cutting time on activities. I thought minimalism was to declutter stuff to find more time to do the things I like. I kind of like to provoke the question: what it’s all about? I declutter my stuff, I cut down the activities and at the end of the day, what do I do? Sitting in an empty apartment with only the clothes I wear, lots of time at my hands and staring at the wall like a zen monk? It’s not that I’d despise that image, but at times I’m asking myself what it’s all about?

  11. Liz says

    I like to walk my dog, every day, if I can. It gives me chance to bond with my pet and gives him chance to run off some energy. I love to see how the world around me changes and experience the change in the seasons. Some days I almost have to drag myself round the block (1 mile) because I’m so tired (possibly a stress reaction to a busy week). I think the walk does me to most good on these days. My dog helps me feel better and ‘makes’ me go for that walk. That is the extent of my exercise (if you don’t count running around after the family!).

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  13. says

    Exercise #1: Glute Bridge

    Perform one set of 15 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

    Exercise #2: Supine Reverse Marches

    Perform one set of 10 repetitions with each leg. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

    Exercise #3: Side Plank or Modified Side Plank

    Perform one set on each side (hold this exercise for 10 seconds). Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

    Exercise #4: Front Plank

    Perform one set holding this exercise for 10 seconds. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

    Exercise #5: Dirty Dog

    Perform one set of 8 repetitions one each leg. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

    Exercise #6: Bodyweight Squats

    Perform one set of 15 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

    Exercise #7: Side Lunges

    Perform one set of 8 repetitions on each leg. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

    Exercise #8: Inchworms

    Perform one set of 10 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

  14. says

    This is great! After years and years of spending hours at the gym and working out, we have recently changed to a minimalist exercise regime… and reaping the benefits! We now enjoy every minute spent exercising and focus more on the ‘play’ side of exercise, like bike riding and walking where ever we can! e & c

    • says

      I’m just getting into Pavel Tsatsouline’s kettle bell training philosophy. (His Simple yet Sinister Book). I am bored with traditional exercise routines in my basement and came across this. So far it is a minimal workout Getting started consists of 3 basic stretches and 2 kettle bell exercises. Arm Swings and Turkish Get Ups. Claims are that these 2 simple exercises will greatly benefit your other activities whether it’s jogging, biking or playing a sport. So far I like it but have to work on some regularity now.

  15. says

    A friend of mine suggested that exercising with a group creates accountability, and is something you should do for yourself. I’ve been doing this since October 2013, and I find that I do feel better about myself, and accomplish more throughout the week.
    Thank you

  16. kerry says

    Hi Joshua,

    I’m loving your blog! I found it close to a year ago and have enjoyed reading it from the begining. I have a question for you, i have recently heard a few christian pastors/speakers speak out against christians participating in any sort of yoga because of its roots, that it is basically idol worship – would love to hear your take on it!
    Thanks so much!

  17. says

    Hello Joshua,

    Real like your posts. Minimalist workout inspiration is exactly what I needed right now. As a single mother with 2 little ones, not always easy to hit the gym. Also get limited”me” time. So I enjoy squeezing burst of exercises here and there. To energise me and get the blood flowing. Will definitely check out some of the links you posted.

    Namaste x

  18. Kristen says

    How about Pilates? It’s my go-to. Absolutely NO equipment or special clothing required and can be done virtually anywhere. Tons of great videos to follow on Youtube. And once you’ve mastered the basics, you can do it solo without any instruction.

  19. Mary Leigh Burke says

    My minimalist routine: giving up my car. Now that I ride my bike and walk everywhere, I don’t need to schedule a daily workout; fitness is an organic part of my everyday life.

    • Daniele says

      That is exactly what I like to do – integrate exercise into ‘daily life’. Rather than having to exercise (like another item on a to-do list) for the sake of exercising, it gives me another purpose and keeps me motivated.

  20. christie says

    How do I join Exercise Bliss for free? All I see is a link to join the next class. I know I can make time for this. Hopefully that will motivate me to do more

  21. Betty says

    How about a nice walk, with or without the dog(s), preferably in a green setting? This is where I do my best and deepest thinking, reconnect with nature, breathe deeply. No technology, no set routine, no apps needed.

  22. says

    I like to think of exercise in 2 ways. 1. Exercise is at a gym (or home gym) lifting weights or on a cardio machine and 2. Activities. These are things that are fun to do, and still benefit your health. Hiking, biking, walking the dog, playing a sport, or getting out for a jog. If you look at these from the right mind set, as fun to do things, they will be easy to add to a healthy life style. Then just work at making the first part #1 – exercise, a part of your schedule to make your activities even more fun and effective.

  23. says

    You really make it seem so easy along with your presentation but I find this matter to be really
    one thing which I think I might by no means understand. It kind of feels too complicated and very vast for me.
    I’m looking forward for your next publish, I will try to get the hang of it!

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