Does the 7-Minute Workout Really Work?

A personal trainer weighs in on the New York Times' new fitness app

(Photo: iStock) 7-minute workout

(Photo: iStock)

Perform 12 old-school body-weight exercises (jumping jacks! squats!) at maximum intensity for 30 seconds each (with a 10-second rest in between each new move) for a total of seven minutes—and voila, you’re done exercising for the day.

Sounds pretty amazing, right?

That’s the exercise model offered by the New York Times’ 7-Minute Workout, which now offers an app and an advanced version of the workout.

But can you really cover all the exercise bases in just seven sweaty minutes?

Yes and no, says Toronto-based personal trainer and co-founder of Fit Personal Training Jennifer Stretch. “There are definite benefits [to the workout],” she says.

Benefit No. 1: the workout, which was crafted by U.S. exercise physiologist Chris Jordan, is backed up by solid research. Studies show that short, intense bursts of effort (a.k.a High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT) are as effective as longer bouts of moderate-intensity exercise when it comes to heart health, metabolism boosting and strength gains and pretty much all of the associated health benefits of exercise.

The 7-Minute Workout, which is modelled on HIIT training, is basically a 30-minute workout crammed into seven tough minutes, says Stretch. Though only seven minutes long, you’ll still see gains in cardiovascular health and overall muscle strengthening as well as boosting your metabolism, she confirms.

Related: The full-body workout you can do in front of the TV

But it’s not a magic bullet.

For one, you probably won’t see “ultimate results” from doing just seven minutes of exercise a day. People looking for dramatic results and weight loss may have to bump up their time commitment to between 15 to 30 minutes of HIIT training, says Stretch. (And eat a healthy diet, she adds.)

Another drawback: it’s repetitive.

“Any type of exercise program that’s done day after day and using the same body parts in the same way is potentially going to lead to injury,” says Stretch. More importantly, your body will eventually adapt to the effort, she says, which can result in a plateau, result-wise. You may also get bored doing the same thing every day.

Given the choice, she says she’d prefer to use the Nike Training Club app, which has a multitude of HIIT-based options to choose from.

If you’ve been inactive for a while or need a kick in the yoga pants, Stretch says the 7-Minute Workout is a great way to get back in the game. Once you’re back in exercise-mode, however, she says mix it up. If you work out five times a week then do the 7-Minute Workout three times a week and jog or walk or cycle or swim, etc., for around 30 minutes on alternate days.