The Seven Minute Workout

The Seven Minute Workout

Considering most of us lead pretty busy lifestyles, the idea of being able to have an effective work out in seven minutes is too good to be true surely? Well, actually it can be achieved. Scientists have recently put together a 7-minute exercise regime that gives as many health and fitness benefits as going for a long run and doing normal weights and resistance work.

The work out is based on a set of twelve high intensity circuit exercises using own body weight, or as  the title of the published report in the American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness suggests; ‘maximum results with minimal investment’. All that is needed is a wall, a chair, and a timer. Each of the twelve exercises is performed for a total of 30 seconds, and there should be a 10 second rest between each one. It may not sound like much, but it should feel substantially uncomfortable. If it’s not hurting, then it’s not working!

The idea is to push your muscles to work at their maximum capacity. The twelve exercises are as follows: jumping jacks, wall sit, push-up, abdominal crunch, step-up onto chair, squat, triceps dip on chair, plank, high knees on the spot running, lunge, push up and rotation, and side plank. And it’s important that they’re done in that order, for the right amount of time.

Chris Jordan, one of the co-authors of the published report recently told the New York Times; “There’s very good evidence that high-intensity interval training provides many of the fitness benefits of prolonged endurance training but in much less time”. The theory behind it is that the molecular changes occurring in the muscles when they’re used at their maximum capacity is the same as what would occur during longer, but less intense periods of exercise.  Although this 7-minute exercise regime doesn’t include any high intensity cardiovascular training, there are key similarities between this workout, and the recently publicised High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) methods. HIIT does base itself on short, maximum capacity bursts of exercise, but generally tends to consist of short intense bursts of cardiovascular exercise such as cycling or sprinting.

Despite the difference in the type of exercise, when performed at maximum intensity, the body is doing anaerobic exercise instead of aerobic exercise. Anaerobic means ‘without oxygen’, and during anaerobic exercise the body’s demand for oxygen becomes greater than the oxygen supply available, resulting in the body relying entirely on stored energy sources, and is not dependent on the oxygen which is breathed in. 

Anaerobic exercise develops stronger muscles, improves overall cardio fitness by increasing the maximum amount of oxygen that the body can consume during exercise (VO2 max). It also improves endurance, and reduces fatigue by increasing the body’s capacity to remove waste substances such as lactic acid. Aerobic exercise is actually better for burning calories directly, and anaerobic exercise is ideal for building strength and muscle mass. However, in the long run, anaerobic exercise, such as the 7-minute workout, is good for burning calories as more muscle requires more energy to function, as well as it still benefiting the heart and lungs by making them work harder.

One other crucial factor in how this 7-minute plan works is the periods of recovery between each exercise. These are essential in order to reap the maximum benefits as when the muscles are resting much needed oxygen is being delivered to them, increasing heart rate and circulation. The order in which the exercises are done is also important and should be completed as instructed; this allows for even more recovery time for the different muscle groups. And unless you’re a superhero, you’ll probably need those few extra seconds to breath!

If you’re not used to high intensity training, it may be wise to start with a bit of caution and improve your overall fitness by doing more aerobic exercise. Until the body is used to anaerobic exercise there will be an initial accumulation of lactic acid which will result in muscle fatigue. But if done on a regular basis the body will become better equipped at eliminating excess lactic acid, and will also learn to produce buffers to minimise fatigue.

The seven minute workout is not only a quick way to exercise, but also an extremely effective one. However, there are a few things to watch out for. Firstly, it’s imperative that that exercises are done properly. If they’re not, not only can this mean the effectiveness is reduced, but more importantly that you will risk injury. Form is everything. The inexperienced or even the experienced might want to work out with a personal trainer first to ensure they’re holding the positions correctly. At the very least, a little bit of research should probably be done first to ensure you know the postures and how to do them. Additionally, any type of high intensity training, including this workout could be dangerous for anyone with high blood pressure or heart problems, or pregnant women. It’s probably wise to check with your doctor before undertaking this form of exercise.

However tempting a full work out in seven minutes may sound, beginners should do more gentle, traditional aerobic exercise to improve overall fitness first. It is also essential to warm up before starting the seven minute workout, and include a period of cool down for 5-10 minutes afterwards.  A warm up will literally warm the muscles up which in turn will reduce muscle stiffness (therefore reducing the risk of injury), and allow the heart rate to get to a workable rate for beginning exercise. Cooling down helps the muscles relax, realign muscle fibres, and aid the elimination of lactic acid.

So there you have it, it can be done; an effective work out in only seven minutes. Perfect for busy lives and people that don’t want to spend all their leisure time exercising. We’d like to say exercising has never been easier, but that’s not true in this case. Least we can say it’s never been quicker!

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