Chances are you or someone you know has tried the 7-minute workout. This hugely popular fitness plan has inspired nearly 50 smartphone apps and it’s easy to see why: it hits all of the major muscle groups, gets your heart pumping, doesn’t require any equipment other than a chair and a wall, and it’s over in 7 minutes!
The appeal of this workout, which was featured in the May/June issue of the American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal, is its simplicity and purported effectiveness. Designed by exercise physiologist Chris Jordan, the basic routine consists of 30-second high intensity intervals of 12 different exercises with a 10 second recovery between each exercise. Here at the Tisch Sports Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery, we tested a young woman performing this workout and measured 50 calories burned in only 7 minutes – not enough to result in a significant calorie deficit but about 6 times more than you’d burn sitting in a chair. Jordan has suggested that the workout be done several times in a row rather than just once, which would lead to a greater calorie burn and training effect. And it’s a general truth in exercise that just getting started is the hardest part, so once you’ve completed the first 7 minutes, motivating yourself to keep going and do it again won’t be too hard.
The exercises are all common enough that most people will be familiar with them: jumping jacks, wall sits, push-ups, abdominal crunches, step-ups onto a chair, squats, triceps dips on a chair, planks, high knees running in place, lunges, push-ups with rotation and side planks. For many people, performing these exercises for 30-second intervals will be enough to work up a sweat.
However, exercise is not “one size fits all.” Some people will find these exercises too hard, others too easy, and everyone should vary their exercise routine. Your body wouldn’t perform optimally if you ate the same meal every day and it won’t perform optimally on the same workout either. So enjoy the simplicity of this workout as a part of your exercise toolbox, but customize it for your fitness level and add some variety.
If full body push-ups are too challenging, start with push-ups off the wall or on your knees. Use a stair step instead of a chair for step-ups at first. Mix things up by marching in place instead of doing jumping jacks for some workouts. Make sure you can perform each exercise with good form and don’t be afraid to modify or choose a different exercise if you are recovering from an injury or want some variety. You can cycle through a cardio exercise (i.e., jumping jacks, running in place, etc.), a lower body exercise, an upper body exercise and a core exercise. It’s a simple format but the possibilities are endless!
Polly de Mille is the coordinator of performance services at the Tisch Sports Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. In addition to being a registered nurse, she holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a registered clinical exercise physiologist, exercise specialist and exercise test technologist. She is also a certified USAT Level 1 triathlon coach.