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The 7-minute workout

What if you could get thin and fit by exercising for just seven minutes a day? Sounds too good to be true — and it is. Maybe you’ve read recent articles about a new “scientific” seven-minute workout; a lot of the hype is misleading. Let’s go beyond the headlines to get the full story.

The original article, “High Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight: Maximal Results with Minimal Effort,” appeared in American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Health & Fitness Journal this past June.

The authors highlighted high-intensity circuit training (HICT) using body weight as resistance. HICT is a type of interval training that combines aerobic and resistance training into a single exercise bout. The exercise is repeated two to three times. The “seven-minute” part results from shorter rest periods between exercises  — and therefore a shorter workout.

HICT was coined as as a realistic way for busy adults to stay active and reap the benefits of both strength and aerobic activity in a seven-minute circuit. It’s an attractive idea for people who are trying to maximize the effect of an exercise program in minimal time.

But that doesn’t mean seven minutes is all we need for our daily dose of activity. Many articles about the “seven-minute” workout leave out an important part: the rest of the workout.

This sample program from the original article includes 12 exercise stations that alternate among large muscle groups. Intervals are performed for 30 seconds, with 10 seconds of recovery time between bouts.

  1. Jumping jacks (total body)
  2. Wall sit (lower body)
  3. Push-up (upper body)
  4. Abdominal crunch (core)
  5. Step-up onto chair (total body)
  6. Squat (lower body)
  7. Triceps dip on chair (upper body)
  8. Plank (core)
  9. High knees/running in place (total body)
  10. Lunge (lower body)
  11. Push-up and rotation (upper body)
  12. Side plank (core)

The article’s recommendation: repeat each circuit two to three times to follow the established ACSM guidelines for high-intensity exercise — adding up to at least 20 minutes on at least three days per week.

HICT seems like an efficient way to help decrease body fat and improve muscular fitness. Interval training like HICT can be a great workout when you’re strapped for time. In fact, I incorporate interval training into many of my workouts throughout the week to add intensity and new challenges to my routine.

As I have said before, small bouts can really add up. But you definitely need more than seven minutes of exercise in a day to see health benefits or fitness gains.

The best way to attack the time issue is to complete several bouts of activity that last at least 10 minutes throughout the day. You’ll most likely feel better and see the results you want!