The 7-Minute Workout - a gym wherever you are

No matter where you travel, whether or not a gym or pool is available, you can always exercise, even in your hotel room. An increasingly popular way to do this is what's known as the 7-Minute Workout. It's a set of at least seven intense, short-duration exercises that work all of your body in just a few minutes.

For busy people on the go, especially travelers, the 7-Minute Workout is a great way to squeeze in daily exercise wherever you are.

Spending 10 minutes (or more) to exercise doesn't sound like much, especially if you are used to working out in the gym, pool or on a bike for an hour or more. Interestingly, new studies have concluded that a high-intensity workouts performed in short bursts can often result in equal or better results than longer gym workouts. The emphasis on the 7-Minute Workout is on intensity and repetition. So if you're pressed for time, this is a great solution.

The 7-Minute Workout consists of twelve exercises performed consecutively for 30 seconds each, with a very short recovery interval between each exercise. If you have the time and commitment, you can do two or three sets of the exercises. You can include other calisthenic and isometric exercises to the group; we've included a few favorites further below. Be sure to spend a few minutes warming out and lightly stretching to prepare. Have water and a towel handy. (We also recommend playing festive polka music. On second thought, better not.)

The 7-Minute Workout

  1. Jumping jacks: This classic hasn’t changed since you were in school, except that you won't have your old gym teacher yelling at you. Try for 3 ea. 30-second bursts, or if you're up to it, do 100 jumping jacks in succession.
  2. Wall Sit-ups: Lean with your back against a wall and slide your body down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. It’s like sitting on a chair, without the chair. Get ready for some serious burn. Best of all, you can read the newspaper as your legs scream for mercy.
  3. Push-ups: Place your palms on the floor. Brace your body on your toes (or on your knees), lower your body down as close to the floor as possible, then push yourself back up. The greater the range of vertical motion, the more you'll gain from this classic exercise. To challenge yourself more, move your hands closer together. An alternative is the angled push-up. You can do this against a stationary chair seat or a bath tub - this works a different set of muscles and is a great complement to the classic push-up. 
  4. Abdominal crunches: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor; lift shoulders off the ground in a ‘crunch’ and keep your back from rounding up. You can hold your arms in front of you as if you're praying, folded over your chest, or behind your head. The trick is using your abs, not your lower back or hip flexors to perform this exercise correctly (and safely). 
  5. Step-ups (using a chair): Step up with one leg onto a low chair, then lower yourself back down; alternate both legs. You can also do this with a flight of stairs or a low wall.
  6. Squats (basic): Spread your feet shoulder width apart, lower your hips as much as you can so it looks like you’re, well, squatting; straighten your legs and repeat. This is one of the best exercises you can do, as it works a number of different muscle groups.
  7. Tricep dips: sit on a chair and put both of your hands behind you on the edge of the seat. Push your body up off the chair so that your butt is hovering in the space just in front of the seat. Keeping your back straight, lower your body down as far as you can, then push yourself back up. (You can also do this at the foot of a bed if it has a frame that supports the feet and headboard).
  8. Plank(you're welcome!): Lie face down, then lift yourself up onto your hands and toes (or knees, if you need extra support), supporting yourself with your forearms on the floor. Hold your position for at least 30 seconds, making sure to keep your back and whole body aligned straight. In addition, you can transition to Side Planks (see #12 below), rolling your body to each side for 30 seconds, again bracing your forearm on the floor. Planks will work your core muscles, including abs and oblique muscles.
  9. High-knee running in place: Run in place rapidly, bringing your knees as high in front of you as possible. It's a great cardio burst and works both your upper legs and hips.
  10. Lunges: Plant one foot on the floor and the other foot about two feet in front. Bend both knees until the back knee almost touches the floor. Switch legs and repeat. Extra credit if you hold your position as you lunge.
  11. Push-up + rotation into a side plank: Welcome to Hell. As you rise performing each push-up, twist your body and raise one arm so that it looks like a plank of wood on its side. It's a challenge to your balance, arm strength and endurance.
  12. Side plank (each side): As noted above in Exercise 8, this is the same as the regular plank but done sideways with your arms fully extended or with your elbows bent.

Some extra credit exercises to try:

  1. Leg Lifts: Lay back on the floor with your hands at your sides. Raise your legs approximately 10 degrees and hold for 30 seconds. You can also try alternating raising and lowering each leg during the interval while making sure to not let your legs touch the floor.
  2. Burpees: From a standing position, drop down and catch your hands on the floor as you extend your legs behind you. Quickly return to your vertical position and repeat. This is a challenging and great exercise, one that works many muscle groups all at once.
  3. Seated Leg Extensions: Sit on the floor with your knees bent, your back straight but angled slightly backwards, and your hands on the floor behind you. Holding this position, extend your legs in front of you quickly, and return to your position. Try to aim for 30 extensions per set of reps. By your third set, you'll definitely feel it.
  4. Mountain Climbers: Bracing yourself with your hands either on the floor or on a low base (like the edge of a bath tub), your back straight and your legs extended, rapidly alternate running in place, as if you were climbing a mountain. The fast extension and return of your legs to a raised position while facing downward at an angle will be quite an aerobic challenge. If you can get through three 30-second bursts of mountain climbers, you'll feel like you just conquered Mount Everest (an oxygen mask is a handy accessory for this one). 

Once you're done, be sure to slowly stretch out and perform some cool-down moves for a few minutes. It's time for the shower. Whether you're doing these when you first get up or before dinner, the Seven-Minute Workout is a fantastic way to fit in daily exercise no matter where your travels may take you. Mix this workout in with your regular exercises and gym visits, and you'll see - and feel the difference sooner than you can imagine. 

If you have an iPhone, Android or iPad, visit the iTunes App Store or Google Play to find a number of great apps that will guide you through the 7-Minute Workout too. Here's to great health.

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