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The Seven Minute Workout – does it work?

Everybody put your hands in the air...
Everybody put your hands in the air…

I have been on a diet for a couple of years. A media diet. I avoid watching the news, reading about it, and all newspapers in general. My mental health has improved and I have more time to devote to more interesting pursuits than reading about who died in the latest high-speed car accident.

The only news I get is filtered through (ahem) Facebook, family and friends, and my patients. Recently one of my patients showed me a new app, called “Seven”. This groovy little app takes you through 12 exercises using the principles of body weight resistance training and high intensity interval training. It has a timer for the 30 second intervals and reminds you every day to work out (with the sound of a whistle). The creators have even attempted to turn it into a little game, with hearts to be lost, and new workouts to be unlocked.

It seems this workout, which has been doing the rounds, is based on an article published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness journal and written by an exercise performance coach and the director of Exercise Physiology at the Human Performance Institute in Florida. The authors reference research on HIIT and exercise performance, insulin sensitivity and weight loss. However, the Seven Minute Workout itself has not been tested clinically and is not specifically designed for weight loss, although the authors do state that HIIT can be “an efficient means to improve health and decrease fat”. (I’ll post the link to the article as soon as their website is up and running again!)

Could it work? And obviously, for most people the question is could it work for weight loss and could it replace traditional methods of exercise such as moderate intensity continuous exercise (walking, running etc?) There are some researchers, bless their souls, who have been dedicated to researching not only HIIT but low volume high intensity training. That means, train harder and for less time. God love them!

One clinical trial in healthy young women compared HIIT, which equated to a 25 minute total session (5 minute warm up, then up to 60 repetitions of 8 second sprints and 12 seconds slow cycling, then a 5 minute cool down) three times a week, to moderate intensity continuous exercise (40 minutes cycling) for 15 weeks, and found that the HIIT group lost more fat. Overweight women lost more fat than women who weren’t overweight, losing an impressive 14.7% fat over the 15 weeks. Another trial found that a 6 week program of 10×60 second cycle sprints three times a week resulted in small reductions in fat mass.

Total time spent doing sprints was 8 minutes per workout, or 24 minutes a week. Is this workout equivalent to the Seven Minute Workout though? It sounded like subjects sprinted at maximum capacity or “all out” pace, whereas the Seven Minute Workout, while challenging, does not require quite this level of effort.

However, doing the Seven Minute Workout (which requires 6 minutes of high intensity training per circuit) for five circuits a week may approximate what worked in the clinical trial above. The authors state that more than one circuit may be required at a time. I love that it uses body weight training, and hence no equipment is required, and that it targets the whole body. I did three circuits the first time and found it to be a fun and easy way to train (easy as in I did it at home, when the kids were asleep, not easy as in it didn’t require effort!) I think it can get monotonous though, so I would mix it up with other exercises like burpees and tuck jumps and variations on the plank. And since I am eventually planning to run a half marathon, I am still doing my endurance runs and hill sprints. You can read more about how I discovered HIIT here and a little bit more about the exciting science behind it here.

Kudos to anyone who can motivate people to exercise, though, and it’s always good to know that a new weight loss trend isn’t a fad and is based on some science. Train hard!

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