I’m a marathon runner. The shortest runs I do during training are five kilometres, which take me at least 25 minutes. So my workouts tend be longer—and I like that, because I know I’ve logged enough time to seriously work my body. But while I tend to think longer workouts are always better, I've also heard people touting the benefits of seven-minute workouts. So, I recently decided to see what all the buzz is about.
Here's the deal: Apparently science has proven that working out for just seven minutes can have serious health benefits, according to an article published in the American College of Sport Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal. The authors, researchers at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, FL, found that just seven minutes of high-intensity circuit training, using body weight as resistance, can help decrease body fat, and improve insulin sensitivity, VO2 max (how efficiently your body uses oxygen), and muscular fitness.
In the “seven-minute workout” template published by the ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, you perform 12 exercises for 30 seconds each, with 10 seconds of rest in between, totaling seven minutes. And that’s it.
Since I have an iPhone, I tried the top apps rated over 4.5 stars in the Apple Store. Considering my prejudice towards longer workouts, I was surprised when I found myself breaking a sweat not even halfway in. Here’s what I thought of each app.
1. WAHOO 7 MINUTE WORKOUT
Free to $4.99, itunes.com
App store rating: 4.7
Wahoo’s 7 Minute Workout seems to be the most basic tech interpretation of the ACSM's original workout—and I kind of liked that. It was easy to sign up, the app was super user-friendly, and the bright colors and bold display made the countdown clock and move names easy to read in the middle of the workout.
The original moves from the ACSM are, for the most part, pretty understandable: You’ve got your jumping jacks, pushups, crunches, stepups, squats, wall sits, and so on.
That said, this app doesn't offer easily accessible form cues, images, or move descriptions during the workout; instead, you need to read the move descriptions or watch an embedded video pre-workout, or tap the move name mid-workout to bring that slide back up, which was a little distracting.
There are two free workouts available on the app, although you can buy more options for $0.99, including "7 Minute Core", "7 Minute Cardio", or "Make Your Own" which allows you to DIY your own 7-minute workout. You can also pay $4.99 to upgrade to "All The Things" which includes a workout log, the ability to change the duration of the moves and the rest time, and more workouts.
2. SEVEN - 7 MINUTE WORKOUT
Free to $9.99/month, itunes.com
App store rating: 4.7
Seven was a step more complicated—in good and bad ways. When registering, you can tailor your options by gender, workout frequency, and goals (like get fit, get strong, and lose weight), which is a nice way to personalize things. But the interface was a little less user-friendly, and I found it more difficult to choose a workout (categories like “Get Fit,” “Focus,”and “Be Challenged” seemed vague).
Before you start a workout, the exercises are listed out with move descriptions and moving illustrations. But while the illustration sticks around during the workout, the cues don’t. I didn’t love not having any audio—besides a "three, two, one" countdown at the end—throughout the 30 seconds of each move.
You can only access one free workout here (the basic ASCM sequence); to unlock more workouts—the app claims to have over 200 moves—and weekly plans, you have to pay $9.99 per month.
3. 7 MINUTE WORKOUT: EXERCISE APP
App store rating: 4.8
This was another super-basic app. From the home page, you have three options: The basic seven-minute workout, a seven-minute abs workout, and a seven-minute high-intensity workout. They’re all free, although you do have to watch a five-second ad before the sequence will start.
You can read the move descriptions and watch the moving illustrations pre-workout, but once the workout starts, only the illustrations appear on the screen—although you can tap the illo for more info (and pause the workout) if you need it. If the moves are easy enough, it’s NBD, but I felt like this app was missing audio cues.
There are no other workouts in this app, but the main screen will take you to the Apple Store, where you can buy Workout for Women: Fitness App and Butt Workout and Fitness App from the same creator (they don’t have that seven-minute hook, though).
4. J&J OFFICIAL 7 MINUTE WORKOUT
App store rating: 4.7
Johnson & Johnson’s app (designed by the director of exercise physiology at the company’s Human Performance Institute) had the largest library of moves from all the apps I tried: 22 preset workouts and 72 exercises that can be customised for 1,000 variations. On the main page, you can choose the standard workout, your “smart workout”—which is based on your manually entered fitness level—or you can click into the workout library.
The best part, though, was that the exercises came with audio cues during the workout, to help the exerciser maintain correct form throughout. Even as an experienced exerciser, I liked hearing the reminders to keep my knees over my ankles in a wall sit or to breathe out on the pushing part of the pushup.
It’s all free, too, which made this my favourite app. Now it’s fully linked up to my Apple Health account, complete with workout and inactivity reminders to keep me on track.
5. 7 MINUTE WORKOUT HIIT TRAINER
Free to $0.99, itunes.com
App store rating: 4.7
As soon as you open this app, you’re right in the ACSM seven-minute sequence. But there are seven more easily accessible workouts if you just swipe right (you can unlock each one for $0.99). Choose from an advanced workout, a core/lower body sequence, a pushup master workout, a sequence that works your flexibility and mobility, and more.
Unfortunately, once the workout starts, there are no frills—no visual or audio move cues during the workout, just a big digital timer. And when you look at a move pre-workout, you have to wait to X out a giant pop-up ad (annoying).
6. QUICK FIT - 7 MINUTE WORKOUT, ABS, AND YOGA
App store rating: 4.5
Another streamlined app, Quick Fit is super easy to use. You’ve got four main options on the home page: the ACSM workout, Quick Abs, Quick Yoga, and Quick 4 (a fat-burning workout). The ACSM workout is the only true seven-minute workout, though.
But the seven minute workout is great. A video plays throughout the 30 seconds of each move (featuring a certified personal trainer, no less), and there are several audio cues in each segment. Plus, the colors are bright and the countdown easy to read—a plus if you keep the phone on the floor in front of you while working out, like I did.
Winner: After trying these six apps, my favourite overall was the J&J Official 7 Minute Workout. But try out a few to see what works best for you and your workout needs!
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US