It’s the bane of the modern man: You want to get fit, but you don’t always have time to hit the gym for an hour after work. So is it possible to get in shape when you only have mere minutes to spare for a workout?
It’s a common question, and it’s one that fitness experts have long sought to answer. Now, there’s new research supporting the efficacy of the super-quick workout: Just seven minutes of bodyweight exercise a day can change your body for the better, according to a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.
In the study, researchers recruited 29 normal-weight adults who did not exercise regularly, and had some of them complete an exercise program while the others didn’t work out at all. For six weeks, the workout group completed a seven-minute bodyweight circuit of 12 exercises each day: 30 seconds of jumping jacks, wall sit, push ups, crunches, step-ups, squats, tricep dips on a chair, plank hold, high knees/running in place, lunges, push ups with rotation, and side planks, with a 10 second rest between each exercise.
Even without changing up their diet at all, the workout group experienced some pretty significant changes in their body composition: After six weeks, their body fat dropped by an average of 2.1 percent, and they lost about four pounds of fat mass. They also shed nearly an inch off their waist measurement, too.
Resistance exercises—in this case, provided by the participants’ own bodyweight—can help boost lean body mass and help burn fat, the researchers say.
But can you really get shredded in just seven minutes a day? It’s important to manage your expectations with a quick program like this, explains trainer Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., owner of CORE in Boston.
“It’s a perfect example of something is better than nothing,” he says. “Yes, guys will see some results here, especially if they’re consistent.” The problem is, you’ll likely eventually stagnate with exercises that just use your bodyweight, meaning the results you see will likely plateau and cap after a while. Guys with more weight to lose, or who are new to exercise, might see results for longer, but eventually, you’ll probably stop seeing the results you want. The current study was only six weeks, so it’s unclear if any progress would have continued after that point.
“With very little progressive overload, I doubt someone would see continued progress over time, nor can they expect any profound strength gains or muscle growth,” Gentilcore says. That’s because it’s the continual challenging of your muscles with more weight or reps (the key to progressive overload) that builds strength and size.
So if you’re looking to get jacked, you’ll need a program that continues to progress so your muscles don’t get too comfortable. But that’s not to say that there isn’t any benefit to a seven-minute workout.
In fact, the study authors say it can be used as a great starting point for people to get into an exercise routine, or for regular exercisers to sub in for quick workout when they’re under heavy time constraints.
“It’s a perfect fit for those who travel a ton and otherwise need a ‘default workout’ when they’re in a pinch and don’t have access to a well-equipped gym,” Gentilcore says.
So on days when you’re stuck at home with no dumbbell in sight, this quick circuit can help you get something in for the day. When your schedule frees back up? Then it’s back to the progressive overload grind if you really want to build strength and size.
By Christa Sgobba