Alternative Health

The Science Behind the 7-Minute Workout

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If you are a nutrition therapist, a personal trainer, or anybody with an awareness of health and fitness trends—you’ve heard of the 7-Minute Workout.

The 7-Minute Workout was first explained in an article written in the American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal in May of 2013. The authors of the article are performance coaches by the names of Brett Klika and Chris Jordan at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, FL.

The 7-Minute Workout is a high-intensity circuit training that uses body weight as resistance. The workout combines aerobic and resistance training into a single exercise circuit lasting approximately 7 minutes.

The popularity of the 7-Minute Workout soared quickly, with features in Forbes, the Business Insider, the New York Times, and on Good Morning America. The 7 Minute Workout app is now the #1 fitness app in 127 different countries.

If somebody has recommended the 7-Minute Workout to you (or if you are recommending it to others), we thought you might want to know the science behind it. Does the 7-Minute Workout work? Is it better for achieving certain health goals than others? Has the actual workout ever been directly tested? Read on to find out what the research says.

What is the 7-Minute Workout?

 

The 7-Minute Workout is a fast-paced series of 12 exercises that aims to develop the strength of all major muscle groups of the body. The exercise circuit is designed in an order that allows opposing muscle groups to alternate between work and rest. It’s also designed in an order to create alternating increases and decreases in heart rate.

The exercises in the circuit are performed for 30 seconds each, with a 10-second rest between bouts. With a total of 12 exercises, the entire circuit can be completed in 7 minutes. Here is a list of exercises in the 7-Minute Workout:

  1. Jumping jacks
  2. Wall sit
  3. Push-up
  4. Abdominal crunch
  5. Step-up onto chair
  6. Squat
  7. Triceps dip on chair
  8. Plank
  9. High knees/running in place
  10. Lunge
  11. Push-up and rotation
  12. Side plank

Research to Justify the 7-Minute Workout

 

When Klika and Jordan proposed the idea of the 7-Minute Workout in 2013, there had never been studies on it. It was an idea they came up with to solve a problem for their busy clients. They worked with high-achieving professionals who were strapped for time.

In an effort to encourage busy, working professionals to incorporate exercise into their day, Klika and Jordan sought to create an exercise routine that would yield “maximum results with minimal investment.”

When they wrote about the workout in the Health and Fitness Journal, they had to rely on studies of related types of workouts to justify that it was a good idea. Most of the 18 references included in their article supported claims of high-intensity circuit training delivering numerous health benefits.

When it comes to weight loss and fat loss, high-intensity exercise has a track record of success. According to Klika and Jordan, when large muscles are used with very little rest between sets, there are also aerobic and metabolic effects that can last for up to 72 hours.

Other ways that high-intensity exercise has been shown to benefit health is by boosting growth hormone, improving insulin sensitivity, and increasing an individual’s VO2max (a marker of heart and lung health).

When Klika and Jordan developed the 7-Minute Workout, they acknowledged its limitations. They said that it “may be inferior to create absolute strength and power, specific endurance, and other specific performance variables.” They also cautioned people who are overweight or obese, detrained, injured, elderly, or have multiple health problems against doing the workout.

One key point that Klika and Jordan state in their original article might surprise you. They actually do not recommend exercising for only 7 minutes! They recommend following established guidelines for high-intensity exercise of at least 20 minutes—which means repeating the 7-Minute Workout THREE TIMES.

Research Update on the 7-Minute Workout

 

Although the 7-Minute Workout had never been subjected to a study before it was described by Klika and Jordan in 2013, it has been evaluated since.

A study that was published in 2017 compared the immediate effects of the 7-Minute Workout to a time-matched bout of high-intensity interval cycling. Fourteen healthy and active men and women participated in either the 7-Minute Workout or cycling on 2 separate occasions. Results showed that the 7-Minute Workout yielded lower peak VO2max and heart rate than cycling. These results led the authors to question whether the 7-minute Workout will produce similar benefits as other high-intensity interval workouts over time.

However, studies that have evaluated the 7-Minute Workout over time show promise. A study that was published in 2016 compared the effects of a 7-minute circuit training, 14-minute circuit training, and no training for 8 weeks. The study involved a total of 96 healthy adult participants. After 8 weeks, results showed significant improvements in muscle endurance (measured by push-ups) in both the 7-minute and 14-minute groups. The men in both groups also had increases in muscle strength. The study concluded that even this short duration of exercise could improve endurance in people who are already moderately fit.

Another study evaluated the effects of the 7-Minute Workout over 6-weeks of time. The training group consisted of 29 adults (aged 18-30), who did the 7-Minute Workout once every day for 6 weeks. The control group consisted of another 29 adults who did not do the workout. None of the participants changed their eating habits. After 6 weeks, the 7-Minute Workout had produced slight weight loss (even in normal-weight adults), decreased weight circumference (by 4 cm on average), and decreased fat mass. These results were significant when compared with the control group.

Who Should Do the 7-Minute Workout?

 

While critics will argue that the 7-Minute Workout is not supported by science, that its benefits are overstated, or that nobody can achieve fitness in only 7 minutes a day, the workout maintains wild popularity.

Klika and Jordan say that the workout requires people to be willing and able to “handle a great degree of discomfort for a relatively short duration.” Anybody who is not already reasonably fit would be better off doing more gentle exercises until they have worked up to a baseline level of fitness. According to WebMD, the 7-Minute Workout is difficult for anyone with joint or back problems and should be modified for pregnant women.

For everyone else, the 7-Minute Workout might be the answer to your problems. Exercise is the perfect complement to nutrition therapy, but it takes time. The 7-Minute Workout is a way to exercise all of your major muscles in a short amount of time. And if you have the time to repeat it 2-3 times in sequence, you might even reap greater rewards.

 

About the Author

Sarah Cook, ND, is an instructor at the Nutrition Therapy Institute. She is also the owner of ND Pen, providing branding, copywriting, and website design services for integrative healthcare practitioners. Connect with Sarah at www.ndpen.com.

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