Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

The 7 minute workout- no excuses now!

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I don’t know about you, but this season seems to be busier than others. Now that spring has sprung and the weather is a little more consistent, it’s a good time to think about fitting in a workout no matter what your time constraints.

A  recent Wall Street Journal article  looked at high intensity interval training for very short periods of time. Positive results have been supported by many different research studies that examined HIIT’s efficacy. One of the more recent articles found that HIIT was more effective than endurance training for improvements in cardiovascular ability. This article  gives more detail.

In fact, even one minute of high intensity exercise within a 10 minute span has been shown to be beneficial, but of course it has to be wicked intense!  The main finding from the present study was that “short-term interval training, using a protocol that involved only 1 min of very intense exercise within a total time commitment of 10 minutes, was a potent stimulus to induce physiological adaptations that are linked to improved health in overweight and obese adults.”  See this abstract for the summary-

A short exercise session sounds enticing, but can you really get a worthwhile workout in 7 minutes?  Yes, but it shouldn’t be the only workout you ever do. The evidence is in that high intensity, short intervals really work to improve cardiovascular ability and strength and possibly endurance.

One of the more popular app downloads for HIIT has been the Johnson and Johnson 7-Minute Workout.  Here are five key components that help make this work:

1) Aerobic and resistance exercises

The 7-Minute Workout includes both aerobic and resistance exercises, which is important for a healthy, balanced exercise program. Jumping jacks, running in place, step-ups, etc. are great for elevating your heart rate, and the push-ups, squats, abdominal crunches, etc. specifically target the muscles in this combined workout.

2) High intensity 

The workout is designed so it can be performed at high intensity. That simply means exercising as hard as you safely can for each exercise. The payoff is that you can get similar fitness results in less time than a traditional, moderate-intensity workout. As exercise intensity increases, exercise duration can decrease. It’s as simple as that. However, you may need to modify the exercises to avoid injury. For example, instead of stepping up on a chair, try a lower step for similar intensity, but less strain on the knees.

3) Exercise order

To help you work out as hard as you safely can, the exercises are organized into a specific order. The “total body” or “aerobic” exercise is first, which elevates the heart rate, followed by resistance exercises for your “lower body” (e.g. squat), then “upper body” (e.g. push-up), then finally your “core” (e.g. abdominal crunch). So the pattern is: total body, lower body, upper body, and core. Alternating between opposite muscle groups in this way allows one muscle group to somewhat recover, while another is being worked hard.

4) Minimal rest

The exercise order also allows you to move from one exercise to another with minimal or no rest, which helps keeps the intensity high and the exercise duration short. Once again, if you feel faint, very short of breath, or dizzy, you need to lengthen the rest periods.

5) Body weight only (no equipment)

Finally, since this workout truly requires no equipment (other than a chair and a wall), it can be done almost anywhere, anytime. There are 36 different body weight exercises on the app for almost all fitness levels. Workouts are available for those just starting (or re-starting) a resistance training regimen to an advanced workout for those that don’t think body weight is sufficient enough to get the workout they want. Find the proper body weight exercise that challenges you and perform it at a high intensity with proper technique and you’re likely to have a different opinion regarding need for machines or free weights.

Benefits include the ability to do them anywhere, when you’re crunched for time, and when you want variety in your weekly regimen.  Go to the Johnson and Johnson 7 minute workout app on your mobile device and download it for free to get started.

A caveat for high intensity interval training is that you should begin with a base fitness level.  A base fitness level is consistent aerobic training (3 to 5 times a week for 20 to 60 minutes per session at a somewhat hard intensity) for several weeks that produces muscular adaptations, which improve oxygen transport to the muscles. Establishing appropriate exercise form and muscle strength are important before engaging in regular HIIT to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury.

If this is not for you, Fitness Blender has some excellent workouts that focus on various areas and are not as intense, but still effective. Go to  for a good abdominal workout.

The American College of Sports Medicine’s gold standard for optimal cardiac fitness is at minimum the following:  a total of 150 minutes a week of moderate activity (ideally 5 days a week, 30 minutes at a time) to vigorous physical activity for 20 minutes at least 3 times a week, or some combination of both. So, what are you waiting for? Give micro-workouts a try, and let me know what you think!

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