Dame Helen Mirren’s 12-Minute Workout Plan

Dame Helen Mirren in a red bikiniDame Helen Mirren is rated as one of the sexiest women in the world over the age of 60; she is now almost 69 years old. Helen made the headlines in 2008 when she was photographed in a red bikini and everybody wanted to know how she stayed in such amazing shape.

Well, we now know her secret. Helen does a daily 12 minute workout that is based on a 1950s Royal Canadian Air Force exercise plan.

Helen has admitted that she is a bit of a yo-yo dieter and tends to lose a lot of weight only to regain it all again.

The 12 minute Royal Canadian Air Force exercise plan

The exercise plan was developed by a doctor during the 1950s for the Air Force so that they could stay fit and strong without a gym; it is a classic home exercise plan.

The routine is a full body workout and is actually very similar to the workouts that form MotleyHealth’s own weekly fitness plan. The workout include classic, old-school exercises such as push ups, sit-ups, running on the spot and arm circling (although arm circling is no longer recommended due to possible long-term damage to the shoulder joint).

The 5BX plan

The exercise plan is actually based on the 5BX plan, which is short for “five basic exercises”. The plan was devised by Bill Orban, who was a Canadian athlete, scientist and academic.

The plan requires that you only do five exercises in one session, for example:

  • Stretching
  • Sit-up
  • Back extension
  • Push-up
  • Running in place

Other sessions include leg raises, high knees, jumping jacks and squats. But the plan advances so that as you become fitter you work to a greater intensity and do more repetitions in the 11 minutes set (or 12, if you do Dame Helen’s version).

Read the original pamphlet here (pdf)

Many people have modified this workout. Some people replace the sit-ups with crunches or the plank (or both). Rather than doing static stretches you could also do dynamic stretches such as walking lunges and spider crawls.

Dame Helen spoke to Hello! magazine about her routine, explain that “it is 12 minutes and they have charts you follow. Each day, you have to do exercises within the 12 minutes and until you can, you can’t move up.”

“It’s the exercise I have done off and on my whole life. It just very gently gets you fit. Two weeks of doing that and you think ‘Yeah, I could go to the gym now’.”

Is it the best option?

There is little doubt that this is an effective fitness plan that if done daily will provide many long-term fitness benefits. However, sports science has progressed and there are many better plans to follow, such as our own 7 day fitness plan (that actually includes many of the same exercises).

What is most important is that you do some exercise most days and that you also control calorie intake. A 12 minute workout will never burn off 1,000 extra calories, so you have to stop eating all that junk food to see a difference. Dame Helen did not mention that part. In fact, she did mention that she does not strictly adhere to a daily workout.


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