You know that you should exercise. You know you should get out there and be active, either at the gym, or playing some team sport with your friends. But who has the time? Our days are filled already. You might be able to squeeze in an hour at the health club, or a quick basketball game after work…but only once or twice per week. That’s not enough. At a minimum, the experts suggest we get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Even better, aim for at least 75 minutes of aerobic (activity that gets your heart pumping) exercise each week, and at least two sessions of strength training. Are you hitting those guidelines? Many of us aren’t. “Physical activity” is a rather broad descriptor. It can include taking a class at the local gym or community centre, or walking, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It shouldn’t be so difficult to get 30 minutes each day. But it can be. We wake up, shower, get dressed, drive or take public transit to work, sit at a desk all day, return home, watch some television, and go to bed. Repeat. In a perfect world, we’d all have the time, money, and energy to properly exercise every day, and that includes activity to increase flexibility, strength, and aerobics. Adding an exercise routine to your day can have some wonderful benefits, like greater energy, happiness, and motivation. Can you fit that into your workday? If so, you’re lucky. Do it. If not, you need to find something else. And that means hitting the gym before or after you finish for the day. Unfortunately, that requires a potentially costly membership, and the motivation to either get up earlier or delay going home. Not everyone is willing or able to do that. So what are we left with? Your last option is working out at home. Easier than the gym. Cheaper, too. And it doesn’t require investing in a lot of expensive equipment, either. In fact, you don’t need to buy anything. You can…but it’s not necessary. Look, I get it. You’re busy. Money is tight. But that’s no reason to ignore your physical health. In the modern world, we’re all too stationary, and it’s killing us. Sitting is the new smoking. Get active. Get moving. Get up. Ideally, you can workout on a regular basis for the recommended 30+ minutes each day. Ideally, you’ll include exercises that involve flexibility, strength, and cardio. Ideally, you’ll be able to afford (or willing to buy) a few simple pieces of equipment to help (kettlebell, dumbbells, jump rope). But if not, you can still do something. No money, no equipment, no time…and no excuses.
The Perfect Fitness Program
According to Kevin Steele, physiologist and VP of 24-Hour Fitness Centers, a fitness program is composed of five parts:
- A gentle warmup
- A cardiovascular (aerobic) workout
- Resistance (strength-building) exercises
- Flexibility training
- A gentle cooldown
Each component is easier to do with equipment (warmup on a treadmill or stationary bike, cardio with the same, or aerobic steps, or a jump rope, resistance training with dumbbells and weights), but it can be done without it, too. No equipment warmup? Walk. No equipment cardio? Run. No equipment resistance training? Use your body weight with pullups, squats, pushups, and crunches. Flexibility? Yoga and stretching poses. Cooldown? Walk. See? It can be done. And you don’t have to complete each element each time: mix and match, but always start with a warmup, and finish with a cooldown. Be sure and increase the length and intensity over time for maximum results and benefits. Other tips include tracking your progress (as well as time spent, number of reps, and so on), planning your workout sessions (schedule them as you would an appointment), and setting goals (weight loss, consistency, building up to more time or greater intensity). There are many exercises you can do at home, with no equipment, to work the various muscles in your body. That’s all well and good, but what if that still requires more time, energy, and effort than you can spare? There’s an app for that.
The 7-Minute Workout
Can you spare a measly seven minutes each day? Of course you can. And as the name implies, this workout is both structured and short. And you can literally do it anywhere, in any room of your home. All you need is your body, a chair (or couch, or low bed), and a wall. Chances are you have those things already. The 7 Minute Workout has been around for a few years now (it made its official debut in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal). Designed by Brett Klika and Chris Jordan, the program incorporates 12 simple exercises – each completed for only 30 seconds – with a 10-second rest between each one (admittedly, the math doesn’t quite work out to 7 minutes…it’s just over 8 minutes including the rests). Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But it’s backed by some scientific study and research. The evidence suggests that high-intensity interval training (like the 7 Minute Workout) provides many (though not all) of the same benefits of longer endurance training sessions.
Why It Works
The routine has been designed with those ideas in mind. Interval training requires high intensity and brief periods of rest, which is exactly what 7 Minutes provides. The 30 second exercises should be done at near-maximum intensity (whatever that means for you). It should be, to quote Jordan, “unpleasant”. You need to push yourself hard. Jordan says it should be a sustained 8 on a 1-10 discomfort scale. But no matter how bad it gets, you know that it’s only 30 seconds until your next break. Furthermore, the order of exercises is optimized to allow even greater rest for various muscle groups. One exercise will work the upper body groups, then the next will turn to the lower body. You’re not working the same area for two exercises in a row. Is it better than hitting the gym regularly? No. But if you’re pressed for time, money, ambition, or all three, it’s definitely better than nothing.
Remember that you need to complete these in order to allow the muscle groups an adequate rest.
- Jumping Jacks (remember these classics from gym class?)
- Wall Sit
- Abdominal Crunches
- Step-Ups onto Chair (or steps)
- Tricep Dips on Chair (or edge of a low bed)
- High-Knees Running in Place
- Pushups and Rotations
- Side Planks
As with any workout routine, proper form and motion is crucial, so it’s worthwhile to watch an instructional video that shows exactly how to do them properly. You can find dozens online. For free. No excuses. Or you could use one of the countless apps and websites devoted to the program (it’s certainly popular). 7 Minute Workout Challenge app (paid versions for iOS and Android), Android apps, or iOS apps. These will guide you through the workout, and many even keep track of when you workout, how many times, how many calories you’ve burned, and a slew of other features. You need to go full-out, for seven minutes. Even better, the creators recommend doing it 2-3 times in a row (which is still under 30 minutes total). The 7 Minute Workout is not meant as a replacement for regular physical activity. It’s not a weight-loss program, it’s not going to get you ripped and ready to compete in Mr. Olympia, and it shouldn’t stop you from doing more intense, lengthier activity whenever you can. It is not a magic bullet, quick fix, or instant remedy. It is, however, a gateway into a more physical lifestyle. No matter how busy, broke, or lazy you are, everyone can find 7 minutes for their health. And it just might lead to a new, improved you. Start small. Just 7 minutes. No money? No equipment? No excuses.