7-Minute Scientific Workout from The New York Times Magazine

7-Minute Scientific Workout from The New York Times Magazine

Exercise got thrown out the window for me in a routine way after my boys were born. It wasn’t a lack of interest, just a lack of organization of our time. Just now, as my boys get older and more independent, I’m integrating regular exercise back into my life. My experience with malignant melanoma this past year also was a big nudge. Seeing a glimpse of mortality does implore you to stay alive.

That’s why the 7-minute workout saves me. It’s the first no-excuse-not-to workout I’ve ever seen (I know others exist, they’re just not on my dashboard). The best part of discovering the 7-minute workout was the reality that in getting it done I didn’t need any equipment, any large chunk of time, or any childcare. On May 9th, The New York Times published an article that elevated the research article behind this workout and concept. Authors who created the workout hail the benefits of high-intensity-circuit-training (HICT). They say, “HICT is not a new concept, but it is growing in popularity because of its efficiency and practicality for a time-constrained society. The combination of aerobic and resistance training in a high-intensity, limited-rest design can deliver numerous health benefits in much less time than traditional programs. When body weight is used as resistance, it eliminates the limiting factors of access to equipment and facilities.”

This will likely be familiar: the day the article ran 5pm rolled around and I’d yet to exercise. The night was packed as we were headed to the school spring concert. The idea of a 10pm run wasn’t enticing. I’d just read about that 7-minute workout and the authors’ details of benefits including building whole body muscle groups, burning fat, and improving markers of health like insulin resistance. Felt like I had zero excuse.

High Intensity Circuit Training

The workout consists of a series of 12 different exercises. You do each exercise for 30 seconds, interspersed with rapid 10-second rest periods. Seemed easy enough but I quickly realized I needed a coach.

I grabbed my chair, my iPhone, and my 6 year-old just as we head out back to the patio. We practiced using the stopwatch on my iPhone. He figured out how to rapidly start and stop and watch for 30 second followed by 10-second intervals. We were ready.

And boom, it was done! My 6 year-old coach got me to the finish. Seven minutes later I was done and headed for the shower. Before you shake your head and imagine you can’t get anything done in 7 minutes*, let me warn you I was sore for 3 days thereafter! And before you give up your long weekend run or trip to the gym, be careful substituting this for other exercise.

Dr James Beckerman, a cardiologist, author, and founder of PlaySmart, a youth heart screening program, said this about the 7-minute workout:

The NYT article implies that it’s a substitute for other types of exercise.  The authors actually don’t say quite that.  I don’t think people should infer that seven minutes of high intensity circuit training will prepare them to run a 5k.  But I do think it’s a fun way to augment the typical aerobic workouts people are getting with something that adds some intervals and some resistance training – both of which are good for you, help burn calories more efficiently, and help support heart health.

The first no-excuse-not-to workout for a busy parent. There’s rarely a day where you can can’t carve out 7 minutes. But be warned, authors describe pain involved, suggesting you have to maintain an intensity of 8/10 during the exercise claiming it should be “unpleasant” for best benefit.

Painful, intense, unpleasant, but perhaps…..perfect?

*Only real issue –authors suggest you can cycle the 7-minute routine 2 or 3 times. You overachievers out there can do it before heading out for a long walk or run. Or you can feel free to re-name it the 21-minute workout after you cycle it three times.