What We Tried: The seven-minute workout, as made popular by a New York Times article covering a recent circuit workout published in the American College of Sports Medicine's (ACSM) Health & Fitness Journal.
Where: In the comfort of my own living room.
What We Did: The seven-minute workout involves a series of 12 bodyweight exercises that require only a chair and a wall, performed at about an eight on an intensity scale of one to 10. Each move -- think squats, pushups, etc. -- is performed for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between. Follow along with this nifty timer, which ticks off each interval and notes which move is coming up next (h/t Lifehacker).
For How Long: Seven minutes! Although, (there's always a catch, right?) the ACSM authors suggest (and many critics point out) that repeating the whole circuit two or three times for a total of closer to 20 minutes will likely benefit you even more.
How'd It Feel: Hard. The NYT article appropriately warns: "Those seven minutes should be, in a word, unpleasant." Of course, if results required only seven minutes of minimal effort, I wouldn't still be yearning for Michelle Obama arms.
My heart rate was elevated after completing just three of the moves, and I was visibly sweaty (why do I still think I can wear gray?) after about six of them. Thirty seconds of triceps dips on a chair (the seventh exercise out of 12) would have been more aptly named triceps dips to exhaustion, and I think I just barely cranked out six reps of move number 11, pushups with rotation.
What It Helps With: High intensity circuit training (HICT) isn't a new concept. HICT, along with high intensity interval training (HIIT) and Tabata workouts have all been shown to have long-lasting benefits despite their abbreviated durations. A budding crop of research suggests that short, intense exercise can boost metabolism, fight weight gain and even add years to your life.
Critics, however, say that the potential results are overstated by the ACSM authors. While some exercise is always better than none, seven minutes is not likely to make a huge difference.
Still, this particular seven-minute workout is only one example of a HICT routine, and can certainly still boost heart rate and tax the muscles. Could it be made even more intense and effective with different moves and added resistance, as fitness expert Adam Bornstein posits on his blog, Born Fitness? Certainly. Could it still be a beneficial addition to an otherwise varied exercise routine? Certainly.
What Fitness Level Is Required: Some understanding of proper form and technique is key in a workout like this, write the authors, not to mention a certain understanding of what you're getting yourself into. "Proper execution requires a willing and able participant who can handle a great degree of discomfort for a relatively short duration," they write. However, if you're game, anyone can give it a go (although the authors do provide a caution for people with hypertension or heart disease).
What It Costs: Zip!
Would We Do It Again: Definitely. In fact, I tried it on Monday, and immediately challenged my boyfriend to do the circuit at least once through every day for an entire week. We'll see if he can handle it.
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