Every year, resolute Americans search more for exercise tips in January than at any other time of the year. If you’re new to exercise, or are just getting back into it, here’s a wonderful tip: All you need is seven minutes a few times a week. Yes, just seven minutes. And, there’s a range of online tools and gadgets to make sure you perform these somewhat tricky workouts properly.
“A harder, more intense workout will stimulate greater fitness improvements than an easier, less intense workout, since it is more challenging. The more intense the workout is, the shorter the workout can be. The less intense the workout is, the longer the workout needs to be,” explained Chris Jordan, author of the so-called “Scientific 7-Minute Workout.”
Jordan discovered that super-high intensive body workouts of multiple muscle groups could cause similar changes to body composition as moderate intensity workouts. His Scientific 7-Minute Workout is just a series of squats, pushups, dips, and static holds over 7 minutes.
Not surprisingly, academic evidence of a super-short workout made headlines and sparked a whole slew online tools to guide eager health nuts through the workout.
Lifehacker has a fun Youtube video
The New York Times developed a web-app that guides users through the workout and the corresponding 30-second breaks.
Finally, if you have the Pebble watch, there’s an app to guide you right on your wrist.
The real key to short workouts is a very high heart rate. “While there is no hard and fast rule, average heart rate during the intervals should be at least ~80-85 percent of maximum,” Martin Gibala of McMaster University explained to me in an email.
A number of devices can you help you track your heart rate to make sure that you’re not working too hard or too easy. I like the Microsoft Band, which is the best all-purpose fitness band that can also track exercise-grade heart rate. There’s also the Mio Alpha watch for tracking heart rate during exercise, which is a little more responsive than the Microsoft band. If you want second-by-second heart rate, you’ll need something like a Polar watch and chest strap monitor.
In truth, there’s nothing uniquely special about the Scientific 7-Minute Workout. It’s just a version of high-intensity resistance training. It combines the high heart rate of a workout like running with the force production of lifting weights. If you’ve heard about the workout craze, Crossfit, it’s essentially the same thing. They’re both part of the same general trend toward shorter, more intense workouts that also build muscle.
So as long as you’re tracking your heart rate and you’re exercising in a safe and advisable way, you can likely meet your New Year’s goal with less than 25 minutes of exercise a week.