HEALTH & CARE

Restarting a fitness routine with a 7-minute workout

iPhone showing the home screen of a 7-minute workout lower legs and running shoes iPhone showing exercises contained in a 7-minute workout

I’m almost afraid to admit this, but here it is: before two weeks ago, I hadn’t engaged in proper exercise – I mean, exercise for the sole purpose of fitness – in over six years. Six years! That brings us back to the start of my pregnancy with my daughter, a time that feels like it may as well be another lifetime all together. It’s not that I haven’t been active since then, of course – city life means lots of walking, and on the average day I walk anywhere from 3 to 6 miles bringing my kids to school and classes, running errands, going to the park, etc.. On top of that we hike often as a family, and I run around with my kids and do all the sort of regular parent things we do in the course of our days with small children, like lifting and carrying them and their attendant belongings. But my days as an athlete (I played soccer in high school and ran indoor and outdoor track in high school and all through college) seem long behind me, and since becoming a parent I’ve not made it a priority to create the time and find the motivation to carve out a slice of my days for the purpose of dedicated exercise to keep my body healthy. I know January is filled with people resolving to instate or return to a fitness routine and it’s perhaps the most the most boring and common of goals, but here I am joining them.

The turning point for me was this article published in the New York Times on January 1. It talks about the excuses we make for not exercising, chief among them that we don’t have the time. A study showed, however, that almost all Americans had plenty of time in their day – the average was 4.5 hours of free time, regardless of income, age, gender, or ethnicity – but that we instead choose to spend almost all of that free time watching TV or using our phones. And ouch…that hit home! Like so many people, I’m spending far more time than I should be scrolling and scrolling, especially in the evening hours after my kids have gone to bed. Could I dedicate a few of those scrolling minutes to active, purposeful fitness? I definitely could.

Concurrent with reading this article I remembered a second article I’d read in the New York Times years ago, about the benefit of short but intense interval workouts. They’d outlined and included a 7-minute workout in the article: 12 exercises of 30 seconds each, interspersed with 10-second rest intervals. Science supports the idea of such a workout, with studies showing that it supplies many of the same benefits of a longer (but less intense) cardio workout and a trip to the weight room. The exercises require only your body weight, a wall, and a chair, so they can easily be done at home (or while traveling) without any special equipment. And so a plan was born: I resolved to scroll a bit less and move a bit more.

It’s been two weeks now, and I’ve been amazed at how easy it’s been to carve out 15 minutes, change into exercise clothes, and head down to my basement for a quick workout. What’s not been terribly easy is the workout itself (especially after 6 years of not doing this sort of thing!), which is, as the second article says, “about seven minutes of steady discomfort.” The workout is quite flexible, with exercises easily modified based on where you are with your fitness level (lower chair to step up onto, for example, or modified pushups). And through it all there is solace in the knowledge that in seven minutes it’s all over and I can go about my day, and also the certainty that it will get easier. Knowing the workout is so short has kept me from making excuses about doing it, and not at all surprisingly, the benefits of the exercise spill over into so many other areas: feeling better generally, eating better, sleeping better.

So there it is…a new year (a new decade, even!) and a new routine! What about you? Have you done short interval workouts like this? Do you have one to recommend? Are you keen to  try it? I’d love to hear, and perhaps we can all be an encouragement to each other to get out from behind our screens in the name of fitness.

Shannon x

PS: I should make sure to add – as with starting any sort of new physical activity, don’t hesitate to check in with your doctor or other professional first, or to seek guidance if you’re unfamiliar with the exercises or activity.

PPS: The New York Times has a free 7-minute workout app to download for your computer or phone (it includes the original workout as well as an advanced version). It walks you through the workout and keeps time for you – so handy! Just be sure to change the setting on your phone so it doesn’t auto-lock when you’re in the middle of something like the push-ups!

 


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Comments (2)

Esther in Amsterdam
January 23, 2020

I love this idea! Maybe I will give this a go… 7 minutes sounds doable! Thanks for the inspiration xx


Becca
February 11, 2020

I did this after my son was born six years ago! I should get back into it. 😬


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