In a perfect world, we would all have enough time each day to do our jobs, cook three delicious yet balanced meals, hang out and laugh with friends or family, enjoy a few hobbies, and exercise. Reality, however, is far less accommodating. There are only 24 hours in each day, and at least seven of those should be accounted for by that unavoidable necessity known as sleep.
Unfortunately, exercise is often the first item on that list that ends up being neglected over time constraints. For example, one survey reports that 42% of American adults don’t exercise as often as they would like because they don’t have the time. Similarly, another 36% say they’ll often skip a planned workout over having too much work to do. While all of that is understandable, regular exercise is an endeavor well worth carving out some time to accomplish. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a consistent fitness routine strengthens muscles and bones, decreases the risk of health issues like heart disease and diabetes, and promotes a longer life in general.
But you don’t need to give up your hobbies and stop seeing friends in order to make time for fitness. “Fitting movement and healthy lifestyle changes into your daily life doesn’t have to require a lot of time. Making simple changes in your routine can make a huge difference in your physical and mental health,” says Brittany Lynne, a Yoga Alliance-certified E-RYT yoga and meditation teacher and Inner Dimension TV instructor.
Don’t believe me? Read on to learn more about some life-changing fitness tricks that only take seven minutes. And for more simple exercise ideas, check out: These 8-Minute Pre-Breakfast Workouts Will Help You Get Lean, Says Trainer.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to get in a meaningful exercise session in as little as just seven minutes. One way to accomplish this is via an EMOM workout. Short for “every minute on the minute,” EMOM workouts entail switching between intense movement and rest—all within the span of a single minute. (Think of it as a form of HIIT.) Even better, you can personalize your EMOM workout with preferred exercises, number of reps, and number of rounds.
According to NBC News, completing EMOM workouts over time will train your body to use oxygen more efficiently and increase your metabolism. In fact, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) reports that EMOM workouts promote EPOC, or post-exercise oxygen consumption. In other words, your body will actually continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished your exercise session.
“EMOM workouts are one the best ways to break a sweat in a limited amount of time. Simply choose seven movements such as squats, overhead presses, jumping lunges, or whatever you prefer. Set your timer for one minute and perform 8-12 reps of the movement. If a set of squats takes 30 seconds, you now have a remainder of 30 seconds left [to rest] before moving on to the next movement. Incorporating resistance training with high-intensity moves like box jumps is a great way to get the most out of your EMOM workout,” explains Phil Blechman, Senior Writer at BarBend. For more HIIT-style workouts, be sure to read: The Science-Backed Way to Get Fit in Just 12 Minutes Per Week, Says Study.
If you only have time for one exercise, squats are a great full-body choice for a few reasons. This 2018 study published in The Journal of Human Kinetics found that squats activate and work the spine muscles four times (!) more than planks, promoting better posture and a stronger core. Squats also support better cognitive health because they challenge the brain by increasing and then decreasing blood flow. Other perks of squats: improved heart health, increased bone density, and potentially a longer life.
“If you want to tone your thighs and glutes in seven minutes, then you need to try the seven-minute squat challenge,” says James Jackson, PT, of Critical Body. “This simple yet effective workout is split into seven sets: 40 seconds of squats followed by 20 seconds of rest repeated seven times. Make sure to squat as low as you comfortably can while keeping your spine straight so that your legs get the best possible workout. Feel free to increase the difficulty by holding a pair of dumbbells by your sides or by wearing a weighted vest. But be warned, bodyweight is enough for most people,” he says.
Jackson adds that you can swap out squats for other exercises, such as push-ups, using the 40 second exercise-20 second rest strategy. But also notes that “since the quadriceps and, in particular, the glutes, have a large proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibers, this seven-minute trick is especially effective for strengthening the lower body.” And don’t miss: Exercise Tricks for Reducing Stubborn Body Fat, Say Experts.
“A great way to get in a quick seven-minute workout is to use the AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) method,” says Sarah Pelc Graca, CPT, founder of Strong With Sarah. So what exactly are AMRAP workouts? Amy Marturana Winderl, CPT., wrote for Self that AMRAP workouts are all about completing a set list of exercises as many times as possible within a given timeframe.
Pelc Graca recommends setting a timer for seven minutes and performing the following regimen: 20 jumping jacks, 30 lunges, 40 bicycle crunches, 15 burpees, 25 squats, and 20 mountain climbers. “Within those 7 minutes, count how many rounds you can complete. Challenge yourself by completing each movement to the best of your ability and see how you can progress as you do this workout in the future,” she says.
Of course, if you’re feeling exhausted over the course of those seven minutes, take a moment and catch your breath. If you stay committed to the routine, over time you should start to notice you’re completing more and more rounds within the same time frame.
A healthy lifestyle isn’t just about losing weight or building muscle. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress in a natural and healthy manner, but many people fail to include breathing exercises in their fitness regimens. According to the University of Michigan, deep breathing is among the easiest and most efficient ways to relieve bodily stress and tension. Why? When we breathe deeply, a message is sent to the brain to relax. From there, the mind conveys that message to the rest of the body.
“Breathing is our missing health pillar that might have the biggest impact on our health. We think about how much we exercise, what we eat and how much we sleep but we forget to focus on breathing right—60 to 80% of adults have dysfunctional breathing patterns, many without knowing,” says Elsa Unenge, certified Breath Coach and Founder of Andetag.
Ms. Unenge recommends the following seven-minute daily breathing exercise to reduce stress and anxiety, and increase both sleep quality and digestion efficiency. To start, set a timer for seven minutes. Place one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest. Breathe in and out through your nose. While breathing, take note of your stomach expanding as you inhale and contracting during exhalation. For each breath, count to four seconds as you inhale and count to eight seconds as you exhale. Continue this cycle until your timer beeps. And don’t forget to read: Do This Just Minutes a Day to Sleep Like a Baby, Say Doctors.