7 Minutes….. Really?

11052011-156Recently the New York Times published an article about the 7 minute workout, a brief workout that could replace both running and resistance training.  Busy men and women around the country breathed a sigh of relief.  This is almost as good as a magic pill! Only 7 minutes and you can be fit and healthy and have flat washboard abs and buns of steel…..  but wait there’s more!    We love the quick fix – look at all the women’s magazines sold daily with the headline “lose 10 lbs in 10 days” and “flat abs without the effort” or my favorite “Get a flat belly, toned butt, thighs, sexy shoulders & arms in just 4 weeks”.   Might as well throw in your dream home and an Academy Award.   Given my own busy life, I wouldn’t mind sweating for 7 minutes, calling it a day and getting to look like a swimsuit model in the process.   But alas, you can’t believe everything you read.   You may as well call some of those magazines fiction.  But the New York Times?

Here’s the deal.  It turns out that there are a few caveats which you may want to keep in mind before you make plans for all that extra time you have now because you only have to work out for 7 minutes.  The workout is not for the faint of heart.  In order to reap the benefits, you must train at a very high intensity with little rest in between exercises.  The article says the workout should be “unpleasant” or an 8 on a discomfort scale of 1-10.  Given that the average exerciser who is not an athlete won’t make it to level 8, the original journal article on which this piece was based suggests doing 20 minutes (which apparently doesn’t merit a sexy headline) repeating the circuit 2-3 times depending on your pace.  Secondly, many of these exercises are designed for the seasoned exerciser, not the periodic treadmill walker or those who are substantially overweight/obese, or have injuries or  medical conditions.  If you are a beginner, I’d suggest getting a trainer to take you through it the first time to correct bad form, modify exercises as necessary to fit your level and ensure you don’t get hurt. Getting hurt equals zero minute workouts for the foreseeable future — not what you were going for.

So why do it?  This type of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) (using body weight in this case) has been popular for some years now because you get more bang for your buck – a shorter bout of intense exercise provides similar or even greater benefits in terms of fat loss and weight loss mainly, but also (some studies show) heart health, and reduction in insulin sensitivity (which leads to diabetes).  The workout provided in the article includes 12 exercises, all using only your own body weight so you can do it anywhere — in your basement, at the soccer field, in a hotel room or your back yard.  Convenient, cheap, quick and effective.  What more could you ask for?  So as long as there is no magic pill, and all those magazine headlines are largely fiction, why not give the 7 minute (x 3) workout a try?  In our time-crunched world HIIT is a viable option, which combined with a good clean diet can help you get slimmer, feel great, and live healthier, with a relatively limited time commitment.

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