Pros and Cons of the 7 Minute Workout

By Spencer Richards

This New York Times article reports on a seven-minute workout designed for significant health benefits through high-intensity circuit training (HICT) workouts. This is not the first time we’ve read about such a workout, so we decided to share some thoughts on this one—both our own thoughts and those of the original authors in the American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal. ​

seven 20minute 20workout
Photo via NY Times
This New York Times article reports on a seven-minute workout designed for significant health benefits through high-intensity circuit training (HICT) workouts. This is not the first time we’ve read about such a workout, so we decided to share some thoughts on this one—both our own thoughts and those of the original authors in the American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal​. ​

Pros:

HICT is generally safe, effective, and very efficient, providing a very realistic exercise options for time-conscious individuals. Also, because body weight is used for resistance, individuals can do these exercises any time, any place, without needing access to specialized or expensive equipment and facilities.
  1. The health benefits from HICT are shown in numerous studies.
  2. HICT increases muscle strength and endurance—in fact, some studies showed that increasing the intensity of training and limiting rest time between exercises leads to greater gains in even shorter overall exercise time periods.
  3. HICT can help you lose body weight and body fat, particularly subcutaneous fat (just beneath the skin).
  4. HICT increases VO2max, leading to better heart and lung health.   When HICT training has been compared with traditional exercise protocols, HICT causes similar and sometimes greater gains in VO2max despite significantly lower exercise volume.
  5. Finally, HICT can help decrease insulin resistance, which helps prevent type 2 diabetes.

Cons:

Because of the increased exercise intensity in HICT, individuals who are overweight/obese, untrained or out of shape, dealing with bone or joint injuries, elderly, or who have heart and blood pressure problems need to be cautious before starting a HICT program. Certain exercises in an HICT program may not be safe. Individuals wanting to start HICT should seek prior medical clearance from their doctor.

Another downside of HICT is the potential for injury and pain. These are hard workouts, so muscle and joint soreness and even injury can happen. It is really important for individuals to understand proper exercise form and technique.

Finally, although HICT can be a great way to improve health, it may not be as good as other workouts (longer workouts, more resistance exercises) at helping develop strength and power, sport-specific endurance, and sport-specific performance. 

Final Thoughts:

HICT is a great tool for many individuals. Keep in mind, to maximize the effect of HICT, allow enough time to do 15 to 20 repetitions of each exercise—usually that means 30 seconds per exercise. Also, limit rest between exercises to 15-30 seconds. The seven exercises can be repeated 2-3 times, depending on your time and ability. Finally, remember HICT is hard work. If you don’t push it, you won’t get the rewards.

For more information on HICT workouts and other sports medicine related questions you can reach out to Dr. Spencer Richards at the Sports Medicine Speciality Group​