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No time to exercise? Try this 7-minute workout



Calah Alexander - published on 01/22/18

This workout was scientifically crafted to get the same benefits from hours of running in just 7 minutes.

On the first day of 2018, I did one single burpee. It was meant to kick off the 2018 burpee challenge, where participants do increasing amounts of burpees daily during the month of January. Having done something similar last year (and having a weird fondness for burpees in general), I was excited about the challenge. I complete the first week’s burpees religiously.

Then the second week of January came along, and with it came a new school for the kids and the accompanying whirlwind of preparation and activity. The burpees slipped by the wayside. The third week of January has brought illness, ear infections, and bronchitis, but no more burpees.

I’m kinda bummed about it, really. Not that I could actually do a single burpee right now without hacking up a lung, but still. Burpees are a great full-body exercise and an excellent way to increase aerobic capacity. Plus, they’re fun! I was really looking forward to starting the new year off with all those things, especially because my physical activity has plummeted since we moved away from our taekwondo gym.

So when the New York Times re-ran an article from 2013 called “The Scientific 7-Minute Workout,” my interest was piqued. It breaks down a workout created by Chris Jordan, the director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida. It’s a HIIT workout (high-intensity interval training), and it really is crafted scientifically — the order of the exercises matters just as much as the intensity level and brief rest periods.

Interval training, though, requires intervals; the extremely intense activity must be intermingled with brief periods of recovery. In the program outlined by Mr. Jordan and his colleagues, this recovery is provided in part by a 10-second rest between exercises. But even more, he says, it’s accomplished by alternating an exercise that emphasizes the large muscles in the upper body with those in the lower body. During the intermezzo, the unexercised muscles have a moment to, metaphorically, catch their breath, which makes the order of the exercises important.

Like burpees, all 12 exercises can be performed using your own bodyweight and a chair. They range from jumping jacks to wall sits to push ups to side planks, targeting every muscle in your body. Each exercise is meant to be performed for 30 seconds with a 10 second rest between, and they should be performed at high intensity. Essentially, those 7 minutes should be uncomfortable, even difficult.

I think my favorite thing about this workout is that there’s no repetition. Once you get through all 12 exercises, you’re done. No going back to the beginning and starting over, which gives you the freedom to really put all you’ve got into each exercise. Hate the tricep dips? Do them till your arms shake anyway, because after those 30 seconds you don’t have to do them again.

There really is a mental block that comes with repeating exercises. I know I tend to hold out when I know these 50 bicep curls will have to be repeated again in a few minutes … I definitely don’t give it my all, because I’m trying to “save some for later.” But in this workout, that mental block is eliminated. There is no later. There’s just this exercise, this one time, for these 30 seconds.

I’m definitely going to try this workout once I get over bronchitis. It’s not quite the same as the burpee challenge, but it’s easier to fit into the spare time I have at the moment (which is none). And who knows … maybe I’ll go crazy and throw a few burpees in at the end, just for fun.

backflip burpee
Okay, if I could do that burpees would be way more fun


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