Photo Credit: The New York Times
You can toss out your gym membership -- and your excuses for not exercising -- because a new study says that you can incinerate fat, decrease your risk of diabetes and get your booty in damn fine shape in less time than it takes to heat up a frozen pizza. And who doesn’t have time for that?
The only piece of gym equipment you need is a chair, a wall and your big, bad self. (Not that we’re calling you fat. Sorry, poor choice of words).
According to an article published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal, we can now ignore conventional exercise guidelines that call for us to walk, jog or otherwise ramp up our heart rate for 150 minutes (in addition to lifting weights two days a week). We can actually reap the same health and fitness benefits in on seven-minute workout, once a week, that we'd usually get from a full week of exercise. It seems that any of us following those exercise guidelines from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are a bunch of suckers.
Though it may very well be a get-fit-quick scheme, the series of exercises is not easy. You’ve heard of seven minutes in heaven? Well, this would be more like seven minutes in hell. (Think Jillian Michaels on a really bad day). And if it’s not excruciating? You’re probably not doing it right.
The secret to this “scientifically proven 7-minute workout” is high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which for the layperson means extremely intense bouts of exercise coupled with short periods of recovery. (A good example is a series of all-out sprints combined with brief interludes of walking or jogging.)
Of course, if you read the actual study, it’s not for everyone. In fact, there’s a lengthy disclaimer about who can perform this workout safely:
"…caution should be taken when prescribing this protocol to individuals who are overweight/obese, detrained, previously injured, or elderly or for individuals with comorbidities. For individuals with hypertension or heart disease, the isometric exercises (wall sit, plank, and side plank) are not recommended. For all individuals, the Valsalva maneuver should be avoided...Proper execution requires a willing and able participant who can handle a great degree of discomfort for a relatively short duration."
In other words, this seven-minute workout is probably most suitable for the fittest one percent of the population. It goes on to explain that you fitness elite who do qualify for this workout may not get all the benefits you want, since it won’t help improve your performance in any particular sport or recreation. You have to do the actual activity for that. Go figure. In addition, “it may be inferior to creating absolute strength and power [and] specific endurance.” But if once around the seven-minute circuit isn't enough, you can repeat it up to three times.
Even if you aren't in the great shape, you can still do the workout -- it just might take a little longer. The article recommends that if you can’t push so hard that your high-intensity bouts are as vigorous as an all-out sprint, you can take up to 20 minutes working through the circuit as hard as you can.
Maybe some people are seriously time-strapped and don’t get a bit of enjoyment from exercise, so seven very-hard minutes of exercise (or 20) once a week may seem like a good trade off. But I’d rather take a leisurely and enjoyable run a few times a week -- and maybe even get a runner’s high out of it -- than spend seven minutes hating every second.
The 7-Minute Workout
The New York Times