After a busy day, you look at the clock and a feeling of dread spurs. You don’t have the time to work out for an entire hour. In fact, you only have a few minutes to spare. Should you bother exercising at all? This is a question that many people face, especially those with busy lifestyles. When careers, families, friends, and hobbies are parts of our daily lives, it can be challenging to balance the scales enough to add routine exercise into the mix.
Luckily, you don’t need that hour to just get your body moving. While longer workouts are certainly great options on days when you do have the time, there are many ways you can capitalize on shorter time periods. Shorter workouts, especially those under 10 minutes, will likely not be enough to hit your workout goals. However, the focus here should be on simply moving for better well-being. The key here is not to stress about the time you don’t have and make those few minutes count for the sake of daily movement!
Let’s say you only have 7 minutes between meetings, before after-school pick-up, or prior to dinner with family. Sure, you could spend that time scrolling through social media or chatting on the phone. But what if you could do something more productive with that time? We’re getting into a few different ways you can use those 7 minutes, helping you get moving no matter how busy your day becomes!
Why daily movement matters
With the right mindset and a plan, you can make daily movement a part of your routine. While you may enjoy longer workouts, there will come days when you simply don’t have the additional time to head to the gym, go for a long run, or hop on your stationary bike for a 5-mile ride. If you’re used to longer workouts, a short, 7 minute workout may not seem worth the effort. Here’s why you might be interested in a different perspective on daily movement, even for short periods of time (versus not moving at all!).
As a whole, we are sitting now more than ever before. Where generations before us were accustomed to walking to places like work, the grocery store, and elsewhere, the ease of transportation has essentially eliminated the need for traveling by foot. What’s more, today many work in offices where sitting is the norm. According to the Mayo Clinic Health System1, this much sitting is linked with conditions such as obesity, back pain, hypertension, and even cardiovascular disease.
This is why movement matters. While you don’t need to stand throughout the whole day, it’s critical that you are mindful of moving during periods of excess sitting. A spare 7 minutes can do your mind and body more than a few favors. Stumped on a solution to a difficult situation? Going for a quick walk may help clear your mind to reach a potential fix. Hitting that midday slump and can’t seem to wake yourself up? Some full body stretching for a few minutes might do the trick. Hips feeling tight from sitting all morning? Bodyweight exercises like air squats can help loosen up your hip flexors. Simply put, you can make the spare time you have in your day work for your well-being.
5 ways to work out when you’re short on time
Even on your busiest days, you can make a workout happen. Here are four specific ways you can squeeze in a 7 minute workout that suits your schedule. The key to such short workouts is focus. In order to make these count, try your best to become mindful of the exercise you’re about to do. Whether you’re going for an outdoor walk or doing a HIIT workout in your home gym, your mind should be focused on the activity at hand. For some of these 7 minute workouts, the goal will be to relax and recenter your mind. For others, it will be to squeeze out the most productive work you can.
1. Do a meditation exercise
Meditating is a great way to calm your mind and body, especially when you’re short on time. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or unfocused, it can be easy to get into a cycle of overthinking or using your phone as a distraction. Instead of these unhelpful approaches, you can instead try a quick meditation to help ease and recenter your mind. You can use your 7 minutes to do one or more meditation exercises. This can be as simple as a breathing exercise like this one:
- Close your eyes (this will help with distraction).
- Slowly inhale through your nose for five seconds.
- Hold your breath for five seconds.
- Slowly exhale through your nose for five seconds.
- Repeat this cycle for 7 minutes. If your mind wanders, gently redirect it to your breath.
Breathing exercises are short by design, bringing your attention to your breath in the present. Ideally, you will want to meditate in a quiet place, but you may not have that luxury in your spare 7 minutes. That’s okay! You can do these while in the car, at your desk, or even while on a walk (known as walking meditation). You can also engage in short, guided meditations, which walk you through an exercise step-by-step. This proves more useful to those who need an outside party to help them focus on the present.
2. Get your stretch on
Feeling a little tired and stiff? Need a pick-me-up? Instead of reaching for another coffee or soda to energize yourself, you can get that refreshed feeling by going through a few stretches! After being in one position for an extended period of time (such as sitting at your desk), your muscles can become stiff and tight. If you have a desk job, you’ve probably experienced a tight lower back or aching shoulders. In a sedentary position like this, blood can pool, which may make you feel fatigued during the day.
With stretching2, blood flow is increased in the area you’re focusing on. When you stretch your hamstrings, for instance, your body naturally increases the blood flow around these muscles as they stretch. With the influx of blood, more oxygen becomes available to the muscles you’re working on. During a full body stretching session, blood flow is increased all over, including your brain! This can often lead to a more energized, awake feeling.
So, what does this mean for you? You can use stretching as your 7 minute exercise! Pick out a few of your favorite stretches that target your upper and lower body. If you have a muscle group that’s sore from sitting or exercising, try to incorporate it into your stretching routine.
3. Try a 7 minute ab workout
When you only have a few minutes to work with, you can put together a quick and challenging ab workout. If you’ve ever done planks, then you may be among the many who joke that a minute-long plank seems like forever! This is because ab workouts can be effective without taking much time at all. Plus, you can do a 7 minute ab workout without much planning.
One easy way to go about this workout is to stick to planks. Challenging your entire body, planks can be a great tool in your exercise toolbox that can be modified to your fitness level. If you’re a beginner, you can start with 30-second planks followed by 1-minute rest periods. With this set-up, you will carry out six 30-second rounds of planks followed by a minute rest after each round. While it may sound like a lot, remember—this is only 7 minutes!
You can also choose other ab exercises for your 7 minute workout, such as seated crunches, V-Ups, inchworms, and other movements. Another way to use your time is to halve it. Use the first four minutes for your main ab exercise and the remaining three for a recovery move, like bird dogs, camel poses, or dead bugs.
4. Go for a short walk
Walking is an easy way to get your body moving, making it the perfect 7 minute workout for beginners. With no special fitness aptitude required, stepping away from wherever you are to take a walk can have quite a few benefits.
A 2016 Johnson & Johnson study3 found that bouts of 5-minute walks throughout the workday demonstrated improved mood, decreased levels of fatigue, and reduced food cravings. For this study, participants took six hourly 5-minute walks, totaling 30 minutes of movement. While results will vary greatly depending on the individual, we can hypothesize that taking a 7-minute walk (and a few more throughout the day if you can!) may have some of the effects as shown in Johnson & Johnson’s study.
Head out for a walk around your neighborhood, office complex, or elsewhere as a way to refocus your mind. Generally speaking, changing your scenery could help you feel more awake and refreshed!
5. Drop into a quick HIIT workout
Feeling ready to take on the challenge of a HIIT workout? To get the most out of this short 7 minute workout, you’ll need to plan and time it. HIIT is all about intervals, so it’s important you know the type of exercises you’d like to do in your 7 minutes. Targeting your full body, HIIT can be done as a home workout requiring no additional equipment outside of your body!
Here’s an example of what a 7 minute HIIT workout could look like:
- Mountain climbers: 30 seconds
- Squat jumps: 30 seconds
- Recovery: 30 seconds
Complete for 4 rounds, using the last minute as your cooldown.
You can put together your favorite HIIT exercises in a similar structure as the one above! While you can easily piece together a 7 minute workout online with a quick search, you can also follow along to a workout led by a personal trainer with iFIT. In the iFIT fitness app, you can find short HIIT workouts like iFIT Trainer Carmel Rodriguez’s Total-body HIIT. Although you only have a little over five minutes to work with, you can complete a great HIIT workout and feel empowered about how you’ve spent your time!
Try a 7 minute workout with iFIT
While 7 minute workouts will not have the same feeling as 30-minute or hour-long workouts, you can still apply this time to your wellness. On those busy days, finding even just a few spare minutes can make a big difference in your mood. Whether you give our 7 minute workout app a try or head outside for a short stroll, you can feel good about how you spent your 7 minutes of free time. Making time for your wellness is much better than doing nothing at all!
1. Jagim, A. (2020, June). The importance of movement. Mayo Clinic Health System. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/featured-topic/the-importance-of-movement.
2. Yetman, D. (2020, August 28). The benefits of stretching and why it feels good. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/why-does-stretching-feel-good#why-it-feels-good.
3. Bergouignan, A., Legget, K. T., De Jong, N., Kealey, E., Nikolovski, J., Groppel, J. L., Jordan, C., O’Day, R., Hill, J. O., & Bessesen, D. H. (2016, November 3). Effect of frequent interruptions of prolonged sitting on self-perceived levels of energy, mood, food cravings and cognitive function. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-016-0437-z.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. iFIT assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article. Always follow the safety precautions included in the owner’s manual of your fitness equipment.