Is this 7-minute workout the answer to getting in shape?

Can you get the same health benefits in less than 10 minutes as you would from biking for hours? James Fell looks at the new workout that says yes.

Woman squatting with weights

Can this 7-minute workout transform your body? (Photo by Getty Images)

There’s an interesting article from The New York Times Magazine about the latest in workout science that you should check out. I’ve given the “Scientific 7-minute Workout” a look, and in my opinion they miss the big picture (something they have a habit of doing).

The workout
The workout is supposed to provide benefit by going at an extremely high intensity, cycled with shorts rests, which can provide a lot of the benefits of a longer, lower intensity workout. It’s actually pretty good — it covers the whole body, but I would recommend two changes:

  • Exercise 4: The abdominal crunch is not the most useful exercise. Instead, I recommend a Russian twist because it’s more functional.
  • Exercise 7: The triceps dips on a chair is known to cause shoulder problems because your arms are behind you, placing unnatural strain on the shoulder joint. A better idea is to do a forward facing dip into the corners of your kitchen counter. If you’re not strong enough to do this with all your body weight, you can put your feet on a stool and use your leg muscles to remove some of your weight to make it manageable.

What’s good about it
1. It’s supposed to take seven minutes. When you consider that ‘lack of time’ is the number one reason people provide for not exercising, that’s a good thing.
2. It hits the whole body with a resistance training workout.
3. The extremely high intensity provides some cardiovascular health benefits.

What’s missing
On the time-saving aspect, Canadians average three hours of TV a day, so I think it’s more about lack of desire. This workout may only take seven minutes, but it’s seven minutes of hell. When you’re trying to appeal to people who don’t like to workout, putting them through such a vigorous workout, no matter how short, isn’t going to be that attractive.

Walking provides terrific health benefits and is a far more enjoyable gateway to fitness. A 30-minute walk each day certainly takes longer, but if people do it with friends or family, they are likely to enjoy it and make the time.

The other aspect of this workout is that the intensity can be too high for a lot of people to do on a daily basis. Even though it only lasts seven minutes, it’s punishing.

For the unfit, which makes up the majority of the population (sorry, but it’s true), this is not a “gateway” regimen for getting in shape. Walking, or slow jogging, or any exercise that starts at a lower intensity yet allows for progression, is a better way to ease into fitness, minimize the risk of injury, enjoy it more and find your fitness passion.

Again, while it takes more time, this is about feeling the love. Lack of time is a sorry-excuse for not exercising. Skip late night TV and get up 30 minutes earlier, or go for a walk right after dinner with the family. Do it on your lunch break with a co-worker. Check out these other time management for exercise tips.

Another thing that’s missing is that while the circuit provides, “Many of the fitness benefits of prolonged endurance training but in much less time.” Meaning it’s a strictly anaerobic program. From a performance and functionality perspective, you’re not training your body for aerobic effort. I can tell you that being aerobically trained is useful, because it allows you to do sustained effort for a long time. Think of that the next time you have a big lawn to mow, a lot of weeds to pull, a big driveway to shovel or just a long ways to walk.

Finally, this 7-minute program won’t create much of a caloric burn. It can certainly help in terms of fitness, but there are things that are missing. It’s not the ultimate form of a workout. Sure, it’s better than nothing, but there is more that can be done. As I also pointed out, it may not be for everyone. And if weight loss is your goal, know that it’s all about diet.

Get your FREE Weight Loss Report from James. 

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