Kim GregoryComment

Can you get fit in seven minutes?

Kim GregoryComment
Can you get fit in seven minutes?
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Whether we’re too busy or lack motivation, many of us find it hard to exercise regularly. Micro-workouts seem to offer an easy solution, but are they all they’re cracked up to be?

Between juggling work, family life, socialising and taking time to ensure you eat well, modern life can leave little time free to get your heart rate going.

But we all know that getting enough exercise is vital for good health.

Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of a number of dangerous conditions, including bowel and breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Medical professionals recommend being active every day, and clocking up at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of something more vigorous, such as running.

While people start a new fitness regime with good intentions, many struggle to find the time and motivation to carry on. 

However, some fitness experts say that micro-workouts may allow us to reap the health benefits of intense exercise in a fraction of the time.

Scientists at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida, devised a seven-minute workout they claim is as good for you as a long run and a session of weight training.

It involves intense 30-second bouts of 12 exercises using the body’s own weight, and 10 seconds of rest time in between.

Co-author of the study Chris Jordan says: ‘There’s very good evidence that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) provides many of the fitness benefits of prolonged endurance training but in much less time.’

But micro-workouts are not for the faint-hearted. Experts claim that the only way to feel the benefits of the seven-minute circuit is to be in pain throughout the exercises.

However, a professor who studies how our bodies and brains respond to exercise claims HIIT workouts won’t work for everyone.

Dr Panteleimon Ekkekakis, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, says working at high intensity is not enjoyable, and therefore harder to stick to long term.

He says: ‘The message of “squeezing it in” perpetuates the idea that exercise is a chore. We want to break down the association of exercise as punishment, as something unpleasant, something to tolerate or a bitter pill you have to swallow.’

Instead Dr Ekkekakis says we should view exercise as a chance to enjoy the outdoors or spend time with family on a bike ride.

He says HIIT workouts will only be sustainable for a ‘small minority’ of people, and a better solution is to find an activity that fits into your daily routine.

In contrast, health and fitness consultant Jonathan Hawkins says intensity always beats duration when it comes to exercise. 

He says: ‘Although it may not seem that it carries the same effects as a two-hour slog in the gym, a 15-minute workout can reap huge positive benefits for your physical and mental health. 

‘Giving absolutely everything you’ve got for a short amount of time can make a huge difference, so focus on high intensity, specifically interval training, to get the most bang for your buck.

‘The Tabata method, invented by Japanese sports scientist Izumi Tabata features 20 seconds of intense exercise, with 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. 

‘This means you’ll do each exercise for four minutes, meaning you could fit in three exercises in 12 minutes. Perfect for people short on time.’

HIIT workouts have a higher rate of injury, so if you haven’t exercised for a while, it’s best to strengthen your muscles with lower-impact exercises first, for example press-ups and squats rather than jumps.

If the idea of short bursts of exercise appeals to you, an app is a simple way to try it out. See the box below for our selection of the best apps offering quick-fix workouts.

Edited by Jessica Bell


15 Minute Workout

This app offers four different levels.

Follow each exercise on the screen, which tells you how many reps to perform or how long to hold it.

Free, from Google Play



7 Minute Workout This turns the challenge of working out into a game. The aim is to exercise for seven minutes a day, seven days a week, for seven months. You’ll start with three lives, but each day you skip your exercise, you’ll lose a life.

Helpfully, this app requires nothing more than your bodyweight and a chair.

Free, from iTunes and Google Play


Workout Trainer

With over 1000 intense workouts ranging from five to 15 minutes, this app is perfect if you’re short of time. It offers simple guides with audio and video instruction. 

Free, from iTunes and Google Play


5 Minute Yoga

Whether you want to start the day with a quick burst of yoga, or just relieve stress before bed, this app guides you through a daily practice. With clear pictures and detailed instructions, it’s extremely easy to follow.

Free, from iTunes and Google Play


Carrot Fit Seven Minute Workout & Weight Tracker

Also named ‘seven minutes in hell’, this is a workout with a difference. Carrot’s goal is to ‘transform your flabby carcass into a Grade A specimen of the human race’. She’ll threaten you, cajole you, and make you laugh as you toil. And in seven minutes, you’ll have tackled 12 30-second bursts of tough exercises. 

£3.99, from iTunes


If you have diabetes high blood pressure or have a family history of heart disease, it’s wise to check with your GP before embarking on any new exercise regime.