The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that healthy adults get 150 minutes of moderately intense cardiovascular exercise per week. Considering the amount of time that many people have available for exercising, however, this is often an unrealistic goal. An alternate way of reaching the ACSM goal for cardiovascular exercise is based on working out at a higher intensity. When this route is chosen, between 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise is recommended on three days each week.
An exercise program that is popularly referred to as the “Seven Minute Workout” falls into the vigorous-intensity category. This program was described in an article from the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness journal., “HIGH-INTENSITY CIRCUIT TRAINING USING BODY WEIGHT: Maximum Results With Minimal Investment“. In this article, authors Brett Klika and Chris Jordan describe an exercise program that is highly efficient in regard to its time requirement, but may not be appropriate for everyone due to the vigorous nature of the workout. The program is designed to combine both aerobic (cardiovascular) training along with weight (resistance) training, with the only equipment required being a chair and a wall to lean against.
The program is also referred to as the “scientific” 7 minute workout because there is research-based evidence that short, intense exercise can produce similar fitness benefits as those produced through longer, less intense workouts. The workout involves 12 different exercises, such as squats, running in place and jumping jacks. Each exercise is performed for 30 seconds with 10 seconds for rest and transition in between. The time required for performing the 12 exercises is approximately 7 minutes, although as fitness improves, the authors suggest that the circuit be repeated 2 to 3 times.
The method of performing each individual exercise is well described in the previously mentioned link. Additionally, the New York Times has developed an app for smart phone, tablet or computer to assist with timing the workout.
It cannot be overstated that this type of workout is not for everyone. Because of the vigorous nature of the program, it could be harmful for someone with certain health problems, such as heart disease, not to mention being uncomfortable for most. Furthermore, there are fitness experts who are critical of this method, suggesting that the physiologic benefits of exercise may not be achieved in such a short period of time. Nevertheless, a program such as this could be of great benefit to many people including those that have a limited amount of time to exercise, whose resources may not allow gym membership, or someone who needs a way to exercise while travelling.
The bottom line is that a program such as the “Seven Minute Workout” is time efficient, but not necessarily the best way of exercising. Anyone with concerns regarding their ability to exercise at an intense level should first consult with their doctor.