Why The 7-Minute Workout Works: High-Intensity Circuit Training

by Justin Caba

There are a lot of circumstances that can derail even the most devoted person’s workout plans. Making it to the gym on any given day often depends on time. Unfortunately, time is where most ambitious gym-goers run into their first speedbump. Reserving an hour each day for the gym can be a lot to ask for when it’s thrown on top of a full work day, a whole day of classes, or any other extra-curricular activity. Most people with an already full schedule decide adding an hour at the gym is just not possible.

The 7-Minute Workout may sound like it’s too good to be true, but health and fitness experts who support the time-friendly fitness plan have something that backs up their claims: science. Not only is high-intensity interval training (HIIT) beneficial for our fitness goals, but it also reduces our risk for suffering any overuse injuries. Now, before we start devoting seven minutes of our day to going all out on the squat rack or Smith machine, let’s take a look at how the workout is performed.

Start your healthier lifestyle seven minutes at a time. The Scientific 7-Minute Workout

“If you are new to exercise, or it’s been a while, then this may be for you, as the 7-minute workout exercise is exactly just for that — it is designed for beginners or busy people to be able to perform this intense, short workout,” Donovan Green, celebrity fitness trainer and author of No Excuses Fitness, told Medical Daily in an email. “They can do it at home or at work. Seven minutes is easier to do and is more efficient than a 1-hour workout. It will boost your metabolism and increase strength during the workout. To see similar fitness and cardiovascular benefits, you can do calisthenics to martial arts.”

How To Do The 7-Minute Workout

Twelve exercises make up the 7-Minute Workout, including jumping jacks, wall sits, push-ups, abdominal crunches, chair step-ups, squats, triceps dips on chair, planks, high knees running in place, lunges, push-up and rotations, and side planks. Part of what makes this workout so appealing is how many machines and exercise tools you don’t need. In fact, the entire workout consists of body weight exercises that only require a chair and a wall.

Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Fla., co-authored a study published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal that supported the benefits of HIIT. Jordan and his colleagues explain that although the workout only lasts for seven minutes, it should be a very uncomfortable seven minutes. Exercises should be performed one after the other, for 30 seconds each, and on an intensity scale from 1 to 10, exercises should be performed at around an 8.

Rest time may not sound all that vital with a workout that only lasts seven minutes, but, like all workout routines, rest is essential to optimizing our performance and reaping the benefits of exercise. Jordan recommends a 10-second rest period in between each workout to allow even a small window for muscles to recuperate. This is also why exercises have to be performed in rapid succession in the exact order listed. When we switch to the next exercise our muscles that were just used in the previous exercise have time to recover.

“The 7-minute workout is a short, quick series of exercises that use your own body weight. All body parts get the same amount of attention,” Green added. “The routine of exercises is performed for 30 seconds each with 10-second transition periods before the next move. The order of exercises does matter, as you should alternate working opposing muscle groups and follow exercises that will get your heart rate up with those that cool it down.”

The Science Behind The 7-Minute Workout

How can science explain seven minutes of intense physical activity making up for at least an hour of moderate physical activity?

Since Jordan and his colleagues published the findings from their study between May and June of 2013, a number of studies have been conducted to substantiate their initial claims. One such study, published in PLOS ONE, suggested that HIIT is a “potent stimulus” that triggers physiological changes consistent with improved health among overweight and obese people. Participants who were asked to spend 10 minutes on a stationary bicycle, including one minute at full intensity, improved their oxidative capacity, cardio-metabolic health and insulin sensitivity.

Another study conducted by researchers from Aberdeen University found that two-and-a-half minutes of high-intensity exercise can be just as effective as running for 90 minutes at a moderate pace. Participants who performed around five minutes of intense physical activity before consuming a meal high in fat had lower levels of fat in their blood compared to those who walked at a moderate pace for 30 minutes. The research team explained that HIIT encourages the liver to absorb more fat from blood before using it.

While science provides one explanation for the 7-Minute Workout’s benefits, perhaps the only explanation we need is that it gets people moving. Over time, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to an array of adverse side effects, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. The only way to break out of a sedentary lifestyle is by getting up and getting active. Unfortunately, a lot of people decide if they’re unable to workout for an hour or more, then they might as well not workout at all. HIIT and other forms of short intensity training makes exercise possible for anyone with a full plate.

About the author
Justin Caba is a New York City based writer with a BA in Journalism from Susquehanna University. Along with Medical Daily, he has contributed to Newsweek and the Journal News. While focusing on nutrition and fitness, he also stays up-to-date on all the happenings in professional and collegiate sports.

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