The 21 Minute Workout (Or 7 Minutes if You’re Really Fit)

2 Posted by - June 5, 2013 - Life

I love science. We were talking about exercise while traveling last week and everyone gave some fantastic suggestion here. Around the same time, the New York Times wrote about a new, scientifically proven 7 minute workout that is as effective as a long run and working out with weights, doesn’t use any equipment (except your own body weight and a chair) and only takes 7 minutes.

Science is awesome. The full study is here.

Of course, one small caveat that the paper of record forgot to mention: you have to do it at like 100% V˙O2max which means you’re basically at the highest level of exertion — imagine sprinting through floor exercises for 7 minutes straight — most people can’t do it. But the study authors suggest an alternative. Just do the routine 2-3 times for a total of 21 minutes and you’ll get the same benefit. Do it 3-4 times a week and that’s enough to keep you healthy. So that’s just 60-80 minutes total, every week, without any equipment, gym fees, fancy moves, DVDs or a personal trainer yelling at you and can get stay in shape. Sold.

And if you are already super fit and can do this whole routine at your max heart rate level, then you’re even luckier — just do it once, about 7 minutes total and you’re done.

I asked my husband Drew to illustrate the steps for this post and he even made a handy desktop wallpaper you can download. (I have it on my laptop desktop now, my goal is to do this 3 times a week this month).

For each step you just do 15-20 reps. Aim for less than 30 seconds of rest between exercises.

For the 21 minute workout: do all the exercises (for 15-20 reps each) in order 2-3 times until you hit your time.

For the 7 minute workout: you do each exercise one time (for 15-20 reps each) at 100% V˙O2max (basically highest intensity) then you’re done.













Pinterest version: VERTICAL
Desktop wallpaper: 1440 x 900 DESKTOP

  • Carmel

    Thanks for the wallpaper! That’s awesome. Until I know a routine (or recipe, for that matter) really well, I have the tendency to need a reference about every two seconds to remember what I’m supposed to do and looking at a tiny piece of paper gets to be annoying. I want to hear a follow up and see how it’s working for you!

  • Carina

    Yeah!!! Glad you found something that will work for you.

  • Kim

    I was so sick of my laziness that I did essentially this same routine while in Peru (ahem, that lasted about one week…(the workout, not Peru)) last year. Did it two days before hiking in Colca Canyon (the deepest Canyon in the world they claim) and COULD! NOT! WALK! Literally, worst pain of my life. Which is to say it is a hell of a workout. Wonder what I’d look like today if I’d kept it up ;)

  • Monica

    I’m laughing because I was just saying that I’m not sure there’s time to write AND be in shape, but obviously I’m wrong. Will try this af the gym today, though I’m a little afraid based on Kim’s comment! Let us know how it goes…

  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

    Ooooh I gotta try this!

  • Corinne

    Love this! So easy to do in a hotel room, and since I’m not so fit, I’ll have to do the 21 minute routine…which btw is more than I do now! Thanks for the great ideas!

  • Turf to Surf

    Am Googling printers now who can print this poster for me to tape to the inside of our boat! It’s great! When do you start using it?! Or have you already? How’s it going?

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    Ugh! Why is it that those of us who are the least fit have to do the most work? It seems so unfair!

    That said, even someone as lazy as myself can probably manage to do 21 minutes of flailing about a couple times per week. My husband & I have just purchased tickets to Nepal for late September 2013, so if we start this routine right now and do it every day… we might not die on a trek (possibly because this will have prematurely killed us already).

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  • Grace @ Sandier Pastures

    These are great Christine! I love no gym, no equipment, only your body weight exercises! I started doing the pre-shower workout daily and it takes me only 10-12 minutes but making me sweat like I ran 5 miles or 3. Whatever. It makes me sweat and feel stronger! Here it is:

  • Shana

    I will definitely be trying this out! And I love the illustration – thanks for sharing that.

  • Jaryd @ Aus Globetrotter

    I am a slight fitness junkie and still find it hard to motivate myself whilst I am travelling to stay in shape. This is a great routine to smash out in a quick 7-21 minute workout for those of us who struggle to find time. Thank you

  • Tricia Mitchell

    During our last round of globetrotting, we lugged our yoga mats along with us, finding that we rarely spent any quality time on them. I’m now looking forward to giving these a whirl when we resume our travels in a month. Many thanks!

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