Do Brief Workouts Even Work?
If you make excuses for not working out, chances are your reasoning could be boiled down to two things: one, you don’t have time or, two, it’s hard to be motivated to keep working out when the results take more time than you’d like. When a workout routine comes along claiming to burn fat and help you lose weight – all in only 7 minutes a day – it’s bound to turn heads and make even the busiest and least motivated of us hopeful. But what is the truth about the 7-minute workout? Is it the real deal? Or is it another case of claims not backed by science?
First, it’s important to give a little bit of history. The 7 Minute Workout isn’t the first of its kind. In fact, there are several workout methods that promote similar methodology. All of them are variations of the principle to exercise hard and fast for a short period of time followed by a rest followed by intense exercise again. A brief summary of these methods are:
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) –1 minute intense exercise followed by 1 or 2 minutes of rest. Times vary, but usually a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio is acceptable. Exercises are more aerobic in nature.
High Intensity Circuit Training (HICT) –Traditionally, HICT involves 30 seconds of exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest or transition. Some approaches do 2 ½ minutes of exercise followed by 30 seconds of rest. Exercises are more focused on strength training than aerobic movements.
Tabata Method –20 seconds of intense movement followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of four minutes.
The 7 Minute Workout is a little bit of both HIIT and HICT, using some aerobic and some strength training movements. Either way, the point is to involve the entire body as much as possible to get the most benefit in a short amount of time. Smart phone apps like Sworkit, 7-Minute Workout, and 12-Minute Athlete HIIT Workouts coach you through different exercises, telling you what to do, when to do it, and when to rest.
What the 7 Minute Workout WILL do:
1. Help you build lean muscle. For people trying to lose weight, a real concern can be losing muscle mass alongside fat. Regularly doing HIIT-type workouts can really help reduce this risk since they incorporate strength-training exercises[i].
2. Give you something to do. In other words, a seven-minute workout isn’t going to solve all of your fitness issues. But seven minutes of intense cardio every day is certainly better than nothing at all! So during a busy season like the holidays or while you’re traveling, the seven minute workout can be a great strategy.
3. Strengthen your heart. Getting into the anaerobic zone when you exercise isn’t physically pleasant, but that’s how you strengthen your heart. Research found that after just 8 weeks of consistent HIIT, people could cycle twice as long as they could before[ii].
4. Will help you burn fat. The science is still being developed but it does seem clear HIIT is effective in helping people shed fat. One study suggests this may be because high intensity workouts can actually adjust DNA causing an increase in the production of fat-burning proteins[iii].
What the 7 Minute Workout will NOT do:
1. Give you license to eat what you want. One of the great effects of HIIT is “afterburn,” which refers to the metabolism boost your body gets for 48 hours after a high intensity workout[iv]. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this effect only results in about 60 calories during that time, which isn’t enough to give you permission to slack off learning how to eat healthy[v].
2. Give you the amazing, lean, toned body you want. To really get the best effects, you need to complete 2-3 complete 7-minute circuits for a total of about 20 minutes of exercise. Seven minutes a day alone won’t completely change everything. If you really want to make that 4- or 7-minute circuit work, you’ll have to push yourself 100% the entire time – something most of us can’t maintain[vi].
3 Key ingredients of a good 7-minute workout:
- It pushes you by keeping up the intensity.
- It includes rest periods, but keeps them to a minimum.
- It works your entire body, alternating between each major muscle group.
To sum it all up, here’s the truth about the 7-minute workout: it isn’t going to replace the need for longer, more intentional cardio or strength-training exercise. But as an alternative for the days you can’t make it to the gym or have enough time for a run? It’s an excellent alternative that does pose benefits worth taking advantage of. And hey, at the end of the day, any exercise is better than no exercise!