The 7-Minute Workout: Is It Too Good to Be True?
Can you get results exercising less than 10 minutes a day? See what experts say.
By Leah Maxwell
The 7-minute workout, the newest trend in fitness, sounds almost too good to be true. The theory behind the program is that combining strength training with cardiovascular effort in the right way for just seven minutes a day can produce measurable health benefits, including those previously ascribed only to traditional workouts lasting 30 to 60 minutes. But is it just a fad? Experts say no -- in part because the workout is based on scientific research.
The breakthrough study from the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida researched the effectiveness of high-intensity circuit training using body weight (think push-ups and lunges), and its subtitle, “Maximum Results with Minimal Investment,” sounds like music to our ears.
The promise that you can see physical results without spending all your free time in the gym is a revelation to many, but the real breakthrough might be how this new program changes the way people think about exercise and how it fits into their lives. “The physiological benefits of the 7-minute workout are now being proven through various studies, however, what has not been addressed in these studies are the added psychological benefits of short-duration workouts,” says Chris Stevenson, a fitness expert, motivational speaker, and Los Angeles–based gym owner. “In my experience as a health club owner and wellness consultant, I have seen too many people become discouraged from going to the gym, because they believe that they can only receive health benefits if they have hours and hours dedicated to their fitness.”
Stevenson says the new program “encourages people to do something -- and something is vastly better than nothing!” Tapping into the heart of the matter, he notes, “Even the busiest of people can spare seven minutes and get real results.”
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The fact that the program is easy to squeeze into your day also makes people feel more successful with it, which also makes it more likely to be effective over the long term. “Psychologically, the notion that the same amount of fitness (and health benefits) can be achieved in seven minutes as a far lengthier and more involved program allows one to feel that getting in shape is truly achievable,” says John Whyte, MD, author of Is This Normal: The Essential Guide to Middle Age and Beyond. ”If people go into an activity feeling that they can be successful, they are more likely to stick with it.”
And let’s also not forget that the exercise itself can make us feel good. “The consistency of the 7-minute workout can help balance neurotransmitters,” says Nancy Guberti, a biomedical nutritionist and the founder of Total Wellness Empowerment.
Plus, seven minutes is enough time for the body to release the hormones, like endorphins, that boost a person’s mood, adds Stevenson. “This feeling of exercise euphoria could [motivate] people to start dedicating even more time to exercise!” he says.
This pattern has been true for Whitney Moss, a busy mom of two and the co-founder of Rookie Moms, from Berkeley, California. Moss says she and her husband use an app to guide them through a 7-minute workout in their living room.
“I’ve gotten stronger, and I can do an impressive number of push-ups now,” she reports. But the most telling part of the program’s effectiveness is that the couple has stuck with it. “I look forward to the routine,” she says. “I set my phone in a position where I can hear it and have the TV on while I do it. If I have time, I do two sets of seven minutes. My husband is up to three!”
As for the basic physical effects of the 7-minute workout, the science doesn’t lie. “The benefits of interval training on cardiovascular and general fitness has been known for years, but this new research now has shed some light on the minimum amount of time required to realize a measureable benefit,” says Joseph Ciotola, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. “The beauty of the short, intense interval training is the afterburn. The metabolism gets charged up and the calorie burning continues for hours.” Just like it does when you go for a long run or lift weights for a half hour. And while it’s true that the average person will likely see more and better results from spending more time exercising, the new 7-minute promise gives us all a good place to start.
When could you fit a 7-minute workout into your busy schedule?
Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.
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