Have you heard of The New York Times 7 Minute Workout? Originally published on May 9, 2013 (my birthday! sorry, random), this little blog post on Health section famously went on to become one of the most-read articles that year. Of. The. Year. It’s probably because many people are interested in working out as little as possible, time-wise, while reaping the most benefits. The workout itself wasn’t constructed by The Times, but by scientists at McMaster University and other institutions. According to these researchers, you can get the equivalent amount of benefits from doing these 12 moves in rapid succession as you would by logging hours of your “regular” physical activity.
Here is the thing: the exact definition of “benefits” isn’t quite clear. For many people (including yours truly) exercise is a treasured personal time, not something to just blast through. Having said that, this workout is a great place to start if you are new to fitness. Also, it’s a great way to get a full-body workout indoors, get your heart rate up and tone your muscles without stepping foot outside when it’s 3* F outside! I repeat, you don’t need to go outside or go to the gym!
Seeing the original post, I noticed that the little cartoon man is in positions that are more man-friendly. I made a few changes to the movements or positions to completely eliminate props (no chair) and to better work with women’s bodies. Yay!
*Directions: Perform each exercise for 30 seconds at a difficulty level of 8 (from 1-10). Rest for 10 seconds before moving to the next exercise.
Start with jumping jacks to get your heart rate up. Make sure to really firm up your arms and legs to get the most benefits.
2. Wall Sit
Walk in close to the wall and sink your seat down so that your knees are bent 90 degrees, perpendicular to the floor. The NYTimes cartoon man stacks his palms over his chest like a genie; I like to bring my arms up into an O overhead (ballet 5th position), working shoulders and arms at the same time. You can also add movement by lowering arms to chest level, then lifting it back up overhead, and repeating throughout.
This is regular full-body push-ups. For women, step your hands a little bit wider in order to accommodate your chest. You may also step your feet a little wider for better balance.
Instead of starting from lying on your back flat on the floor, start from rounded back, 45 degrees tilted (see picture above). Curl chin to chest to protect neck and shoulders. Hinge from the waist just 1-2 inches and pulse back and forth.
This is in place of Step-Up Onto Chair. I have done that exercise in the past and find that it essentially works the same muscles as the Lunge, while requiring the prop. Instead of just working the big muscles in the front and back sides of the legs, work from all angles with the Skater Jump (see photos above), similar to how a speed skater moves.
6. Wide squat
A squat with a wider stance, toes turned out, is better-suited for women’s hips. Firm up your arms in front of your chest and wrap your core to sink your seat low toward your knees; come back to standing. Repeat.
The original workout uses a chair but you can work your triceps without it. Take a seat on the floor; place your hands under your shoulders, fingertips facing forward. Raise your hips up above the floor, shift the weight back toward your hands, then bend and press from the elbows. You can also try variation with single leg raised toward the ceiling–switch sides.
Plank is totally unisex I think. 😉 Remember to press down firmly through your forearms and lift up from your shoulders. Pull your abs in, firm up the backs of your legs.
9. High Knees Running in Place
Keep your core knitted together while raising the knee as high as you can, running in place.
Start from standing. Step forward with your left foot and bend the knees so that they’re 90 degrees bent. Step back with your left foot; switch sides.
Do a regular full-body push-up, then rotate to the left as you stack your feet together and raise your left arm toward the ceiling. Come back to center and do another push-up; rotate to the right this time.
12. Side Plank
Place one forearm on the floor, the other hand resting on your hip, feet stacked together. Press into the floor to raise your hip bone toward the ceiling.
More workout tutorials: Power Yoga Fusion Moves for All Over Toning
8 Yoga Poses to Slimmer Thighs Using Yoga Blocks
Photo: (cartoon man) Ben Wiseman via The New York Times; (rest) Peaceful Dumpling