Bond Lifestyle Rituals: How to get fit in less than 15 minutes a day

Despite all the hard drinking, heavy smoking and rich foods eaten by James Bond, he is still required to maintain a high level of fitness for his missions. Below you’ll learn how he stays fit and what we can learn from 007 to increase our own fitness.


007’s fitness routine

Although Ian Fleming doesn’t provide much in the way of Bond’s exercise regimen, in From Russia, With Love we encounter him slow press-ups, leg raises, toe touches and arm and chest exercises just after rising. This type of calisthenic exercise benefits muscular and cardiovascular fitness as well as improving flexibility and coordination.

007 is also a keen weekend golfer, which (providing he walks) provides plenty of cardiovascular exercise in the fresh air and we also know he swims and can ski; all in all, James Bond makes time to exercise.

However, even though 007 looks after his physical fitness a large proportion of the population does not, despite knowing how much good exercise does us.

How I keep fit

I was brought up to take regular exercise and as an adult have maintained my fitness and, in fact, if I start drop my exercise I get pretty bad tempered. I’ve never been overweight, fitter than almost everyone I know and my resting heart rate is in the mid 40s, a good indicator of efficient heart function and high cardiovascular fitness.

These days I live in the middle of nowhere and using a gym or swimming lengths aren’t all that convenient, but I walk the dog twice a day (that takes an hour) and have started doing a workout designed for the Canadian Royal Air Force, 5BX, which takes up to  just 11 minutes a day; more on that later.

On top of that I sometimes lift weights, get out on my mountain bike for 30 minutes whenever I can (I aim for three times a week) or do kettle bell swings if the weather is lousy. We live 20 minutes from the beach, so in the summer I love swimming in the sea. I haven’t skied for years, but won a trophy for skiing when I was 10 and I scuba dive, qualifying as PADI Dive Master in 2005.

Routine beats resistance

That seems a lot, but it isn’t really. The real key is to have a daily routine, which for me is walk the dog and do 5BX, and although the rest is physical exercise it doesn’t much seem like it to me as I just enjoy doing it.

One mistake that many people make when they decide to do something about their fitness is to overdo it. However, you’re much better off with a small amount of exercise done regularly.

I actually started to 5BX to help encourage my Bond Girl in taking up some regular exercise after the summer. Like me she loves swimming in the sea, but has never been able to stick with any other form of exercise other than walking. Prior to getting the dog we’d try and make time to walk 20 minutes every day.

However, she has taken to doing XBX, a version of 5BX specifically design for women, and has stuck to it. She sometimes gets back home from work after 10pm but the routine has become so ingrained that she still does it religiously. XBX takes up to 12 minutes per day, but in the early stages takes much less time (more like 6 or 7 minutes).

That small time commitment is one of the keys to sticking to it early on, as it builds into a daily ritual of exercise that soon becomes so ingrained that it actually requires more willpower to skip the daily exercise than it does to spend the few minutes it takes to complete the routine; daily routine beats resistance to doing the exercise.

She has never felt that she doesn’t have enough time and over the past six weeks or so that she’s been doing it has started to feel much fitter as a result. And forget “no pain, no gain”, 5BX and XBX starts off deceptively easy but builds up over time to become really challenging, all within 11 minutes a day.

What is 5BX?

5BX is an exercise plan developed by Canadian athlete, scientist and academic Bill Orban in the late 1950s for the Canadian Royal Air Force (CRAF); 5BX stands for 5 Basic Exercises, while XBX for women stands for 10 Basic Exercises.

5bx-leafletThe CRAF asked Orban to develop a fitness programme for pilots, one third who they considered unfit to fly. With many pilots in remote areas of Canada, Orban designed the programme so it didn’t need gym facilities and, after concluding that exercise intensity was much more important than time spent exercising, designed it to be completed within 11 minutes.

Although 5BX initially drew criticism from others studying fitness, the conclusion after three years in use by the CRAF was that 5BX was effective.

A booklet explaining 5BX was published in 1961 and sold 23 million copies and was translated in 13 other languages.

Why 5BX might be right for you

Although some aspects of 5BX have come under criticism, such as sit-ups performed with straight legs (replace these with crunches), the key behind its success is how it slowly builds up the intensity of the exercise to build you up over time so that it is effective while taking very little time.

With its military origins, 5BX should also inspire fans of James Bond looking to improve their fitness without taking too much of their time. If you’re taking no other form of regular exercise then you need to change, but the only person who can make that decision is you. You can carry on as you are now, or commit a small amount of time each day to exercise.

If you’re made the decision for change then use the links below to get started.

Related links

PDF of the 5BX booklet, 3rd edition

5BX on Fit for Fifty

XBX on Fit for Fifty

While 5BX/XBX is suitable for adults of all fitness levels you should consult a doctor before starting a new exercise plan, particularly if you haven’t done so for many years.


David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

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4 Responses to “Bond Lifestyle Rituals: How to get fit in less than 15 minutes a day”

  • Peter

    Hi David!
    Well! As a septuagenarian ex-would-be Secret Service agent, whose idea of daily exercise is moving the computer mouse about a screen for a few hours in the daylight before reverting to a couch potato, I’m afraid your personal exercise regime leaves me cold. I can only assume you’re in your thirties or forties and what my physiotherapist daughter describes as ‘her pension’!! In truth, in my teens and twenties I was a UK county champion in track, road and cross country running. In my fifties I was diagnosed with arthritic knee and ankle joints, exacerbated by my many years of … track, road and cross country running!!! There ain’t no justice!!!

  • David Leigh

    I wish I were in my thirties or forties still!

  • Michael Brummitt

    Hello Mr Leigh,
    Thank you for a very informative and interesting article. I have always wondered how James Bond stays so fit. If he did not have superb reactions he would not survive any ok his missions. There are two things which I would still love to know. The first of these is what are these “arm and chest exercises” that James Bond uses. Ian Fleming seems to be deliberately vague on the subject. The other one is since Ian Fleming draws so much on his own experiences did he use these exercises too. It would be interesting for a fan of the series to know.

  • Eric Seabury

    I am 54 years old and had done these exercises (Including the cold shower) twenty years ago. I’m still fairly healthy but I do have a health issues, which I believe, could solve the problem. Starting today, I am returning to the old regimen of James Bond. It’s never too late to start again!