When it comes to regular exercise, is seven minutes all you need? The Scientific 7-Minute Workout is a widely popular smartphone app, claims that you will lose weight, improves cardiovascular function and has over 10 million downloads. The combination of only seven minutes and scientifically proven sounds pretty great when the No. 1 reason people don’t exercise is lack of time. To be healthy, you have to get your heart pumping through daily exercise, eating well and doing things that promote your well-being.  By doing so, aside from genetics and age, you can save or extend your life.

    The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day, strength training exercises two to three days a week and a flexibility regime at least two times a week. The good news is that seven minutes will work also.

    The seven-minute program is a combination of 12 30-second bouts consisting of these exercises in the following order: jumping jacks, wall sit, pushups, abdominal crunches, step-ups onto chair, squats, triceps dips on chair, planks, high knees, lunges, push-up with rotation and side planks. A 10-second rest follows each exercise bout. All you need is a chair and wall.

    In a recent study published in the Journal of Sports and Conditioning, researchers found that big bursts of activity, like jumping jacks and wall sits, both part of the 7-Minute Workout, require near-maximal effort, and pass the guideline recommendations as important moderate exercise.

    Body-weight training and high-intensity training are all the rage now. But there is a distinction between true high-intensity interval training and the 7-Minute Workout. HIIT is performed at 80 to 95 percent of a person’s maximal heart rate. Its history goes back to the 1912 Olympics, and the first published scientific paper appeared in 1959. The workout is very demanding, and the metabolic adaptions continue to be studied today. A recent review of 28 studies on healthy adults shows that this type of training results in superior increases in maximal oxygen uptake than does moderate-intensity exercise. Typically, HIIT is used in cycling or treadmill workouts, and supervised by a trained instructor. In a 10-week program of group-based, instructor-led HIIT cycling, VO2 max improved, as did insulin sensitivity and blood lipid profiles.

    The question researchers are asking is, “Is it really scientifically proven”? Could you reproduce all-out intensity, by yourself, doing jumping jacks and triceps dips for example, at home, and get the same results as from HIIT training?

    One study of healthy individuals doing six weeks of the 7-Minute Workout daily helped lower body fat and waist circumference slightly. Another study of active men and women showed that 24 sessions of seven minutes led to significant increases in muscle endurance, yet no change in body fat or VO2 max. However, all the health changes are for the better, so overall, the workout has the potential to be an effective home-based program.

    You can buy the Scientific 7-Minute Workout for $1.99 and customize the workout. Keep in mind that calorie burn is higher in the full-body and dynamic moves such as jumping jacks and lunges, compared to the lower forces in the abdominal crunches or planks. The opportunity for variations, depending on your fitness level and strength, are huge. Seven could be your lucky number.

Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com

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