One way to start getting lean in the New Year is to wear a Fitbit activity tracker and walk (or run) 10,000 steps a day. But for some people that goal is about as attainable as swimming the backstroke on Saturn. If fitness is going to happen for those people, it needs to happen quickly and easily.
That’s where The Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout App comes in. The free app, released Jan. 9 and optimized for both iPhone and iPod touch screens as well as iPads, is based on research that suggests seven-minute, high-intensity interval training sessions can be as effective as longer workouts for building muscle, losing weight and improving cardiopulmonary health. (An Android version of the app is due Jan. 21.)
The app’s start screen offers three paths: the 7 Minute Workout; a "smart workout" built for you based on your age and other factors; and "Workout Library," which includes a variety of short, focused workouts, such as "The Strength Workout" and "Core Workout."
The best place to start is with the original 7 Minute Workout, which includes such basic exercises as jumping jacks, wall sits, pushups and abdominal crunches. You get a five-second rest between each set. (Woo hoo, five-second break!) You can opt to begin with a warmup and end with a cooldown. I recommend using both, at least for your first few workouts.
The beauty of the 7 Minute Workout, aside from its brevity, is that you need no equipment beyond a wall and a chair. It’s a terrific set of relatively easy but intense exercises to do early in the morning to get your heart pumping, your body moving and maybe even your brain working.
The app’s interface does a good job of showing you, in simple video tutorials, how to do each exercise. A timer counts down as you perform the exercise. Before you know it, it’s time to move on to the next exercise.
You can customize workouts too, by telling the app which exercises you like or dislike. The app sends you workout reminders if you want them, and you can share your stats with Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
There are other seven-minute workout apps available for both iOS and Android. But this one is "official" because it incorporates workouts devised by Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology, the Human Performance Institute division at Wellness & Prevention, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company. Jordan also co-authored an often-cited research paper from May 2013, "High-Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight: Maximum Results With Minimal Investment."
The 7 Minute Workout isn’t going to supplant Fitbit as my exercise motivator. But I’ll be using this app in the morning, especially when my jumper cable of choice, a double latte, doesn't do the trick.