do these low effort, no time workouts really work?

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  • If I have seven minutes to scroll Instagram every day, surely I have seven minutes to work out?

    Let me paint you a picture of my fitness journey. I once joined a gym directly opposite my office, I went a couple of times, did a few classes, and then classic me stopped going but kept paying for my monthly membership. I walked past that gym for three months before realising that it was completely empty and had closed a long time ago.

    Another time, I bought a pair of trainers I found after Googling ‘best trainers‘, and when they arrived they turned out to be fell running-specific trainers. I had chosen them because they had jazzy laces.

    This doesn’t exactly paint the picture of a fitness freak, does it? I just hate exercise, I will always choose to do something other than work out. Pub? Obviously. Movie? Definitely. Washing up? 100%. I will do anything other than exercise.

    The other, rather large, contributing factor to my lack of any regular exercise is that I have a two-year-old son. Now I know that there are lots of parents out there who don’t struggle to find the time for a run or a trip to the gym, but the combination of toddler plus hatred of exercise has not played in my favour thus far.

    I knew that it would be take something that was a) easy to do b) non-time consuming and c) required very little effort. So you can imagine my surprise and piqued interest with the emerging trend for 7-minute workouts.

    What are 7-minute workouts?

    For those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s really rather simple. You work out for seven minutes. Not a minute more, not a minute less. And the best thing is that you do it from the comfort of your own home.

    These short sharp workouts stem from the original Scientific 7-Minute Workout, which was first published in the American College of Sport’s Medicine Health and Fitness Journal in 2013. It was at first criticised by many people, but the participants from the original study were shown to have improved their fitness levels and lost weight.

    The exercises are High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and the original Scientific method involves 12 specific upper and lower body exercises that you do for 30 seconds each. You can still do the original workout, there’s even an app for it.

    There are now hundreds of versions of the 7-minute workout out there with different exercises targetting specific ares, but the time does not change.

    7-Minute workouts: what the experts think

    Holly Kisby, a PureGym PT, says ‘7-minute workouts are a good way for people with busy schedules to fit a quick workout into their day and by using effective exercises, can provide some benefit in the short amount of time. 7 minutes is enough time to fit in a variety of exercises, both bodyweight and aerobic and can be done to high intensity for maximum impact.’

    James Lee, another PureGym PT, agrees that ‘short workouts can be great if you are pressured for time and want to be able to exercise. Bodyweight exercises are, also, appealing to those on a tight schedule.’

    But, they both add that it doesn’t really constitute a highly effective workout alone. Lee says that ‘there is nothing inherently ‘special’ about 7-minute workouts. Yes, you can get out of breath in 7 minutes and get some work done, but it’s a very short amount of time and requires you to be fairly familiar with the movements to get the most from each session.

    ‘My preference would be (assuming you want to and/or can) make the time to exercise, try and get at least 20-30 minutes of exercise done several times per week, as a minimum. (You could work through your exercise choices in 7-minute intervals, for example).’ 

    However, Lee did point out that if by doing 7-minute workouts, you are exercising more than you normally would then your fitness levels and strength will improve over time. Kisby also adds that ‘any workout is better than none and 7 minutes can make all the difference if you struggle to get a regular exercise routine.’ Which, if I’m honest, is good enough for me. 

    How did I get on with 7-minute workouts?

    Honestly? I loved them. I really couldn’t allow myself to come up with excuses not to do a session, because really what is 7 minutes? I could do it at any point in the day and not feel like it was a massive infringement. I did miss a few days, because of a house move, but other than that I genuinely found it so easy to fit it into my schedule. I noticed a change in myself from the first session to the last. I wasn’t as out of breath at the end of the month and dare I say it, I think my tummy looks a lot more toned. Which for a young mother is basically the best thing ever.

    7-minute workout examples:

    Here are some of the 7-minute workouts that I did at home. When you search for them 7-minute workouts on YouTube, Lucy Wyndham-Read dominates the first page, so I started quite heavily with her videos. They’re slightly simple and not exactly well-produced, but they’re so easy to follow and I loved her 7-day challenges.

    1. Lucy Wyndham-Read Arm Workout for Women – 7 Minute Workout

    2. Lucy Wyndham-Read 7 Thigh Workout – Inner Thigh & Outer Thigh

    3. Lucy Wyndham-Read 7 Minute Workout To Lose Arm Flab

    4. Inger Houghton 7 Minute Workout 2.0

    5. NY Times The Scientific Seven Minute Workout


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