7-minute workout: high intensity circuit training

By Manolis Adamakis

 

APP REVIEW

NAME OF THE MOBILE APPLICATION

J&J Official 7 Minute Workout

PLATFORM

Android (4.4 or later) – iOS (10.0 or later).

COST

Free

ABOUT THE APP

The 7 Minute Workout® app is an official science-based app designed by the Department of Exercise Physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute. The primary feature of the app is based on High Intensity Circuit Training (HICT), while the secondary is based on low volume High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). These combine aerobic and resistance alternating short training periods of intense exercise, limited rest design and depend on body weight and props such as a chair or a wall.It is free of charge indefinitely after download for both Android and iOS platforms, has a full and efficient functionality without additional software downloads necessary (apart from the ordinary software updates).

The 7 Minute Workout app is user-friendly for everyone who wants to exercise, as it encourages participants to start with minimal time investment (7 minutes) which is important as lack of time is considered a major perceived barrier to exercise. It has a neatly implemented interface displayed in a red, white and black colour tone, and when opened from the user’s smartphone device provides direct access to three main sections: 7 Minute Workout, Smart Workout and Workout Library (Figure 1).

A                                               B                                                 C                                                D

Figure 1 Screenshots of J&J Official 7 Minute Workout app user interface, showing: (A) Home screen; (B) The personalized settings interface during an exercise; (C) The Workout Library interface; (D) The exercises available in the 7 Minute Workout plan.

The original 7 Minute Workout section, initially described in the American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal, consists of 12 exercises that alternate use of opposing large muscle groups to allow proper recovery for each group while continuing to work on a different group. These include jumping jacks, wall sits, push-ups, abdominal crunches, chair step-ups, squats, triceps dips on chair, planks, high knees running in place, lunges, push-up and rotations, and side planks, executed as 30 second intense intervals with 10 second rest periods between exercises.1The Smart Workout feature gauges user’s fitness and motivation level and creates a variety of custom workouts designed specifically for each trainee, targeting multiple focus areas and workout intensities. The Workout Library section allows users to choose between 22 pre-set workouts, varying in intensity (easy to hard) and duration (7 to 32 minutes), which are designed to fit their schedule.

This app offers 72 high-definition instructional video tutorials of each exercise, including audio support with a virtual trainer (pre-recorded voice) telling the trainee how to perform a particular exercise. It has also more functionalities, such as the ability to set and control music during workout. Lastly, users have the option to set workout and inactivity reminders to keep them motivated.

USE IN CLINICAL PRACTICE

In the clinical context, this app can be used as a potent training method for inducing both cardiovascular and skeletal muscle adaptations that are linked to improved health outcomes.Both concepts that are incorporated in the app (HICT and HIIT) improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness, insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, lipid profiles and blood pressure, reduce arterial stiffness, increase skeletal muscle fat oxidation, post exercise metabolism and exercise adherence, enhance weight loss and, lastly, reduce abdominal and subcutaneous fat, in normal and overweight adults.2-4 The 7 Minute Workout, which is the main fitness approach of the app, research has shown that it can affect the nutritional status (decrease in weight, fat mass and waist circumference) in healthy normal weight individuals who did not change any of their eating habits. It is a great solution for users to get started or to motivate continuous exercising.5

This app is specifically targeted at healthy and moderate-risk individuals cleared by their physician, with time constraints and access to facility barriers, to deliver numerous health benefits in much less time than traditional exercise programs. Body weight is used as the only resistance, without complex and expensive equipment needed, rendering it as a feasible and affordable way for the general population to exercise daily.Lastly, users can receive instantaneous verbal and visual feedback during workouts to self-assess their performance, perform each exercise correctly and avoid potential injuries.

PROS

  • User-friendly interface and, specifically for iOS devices, workouts can be integrated with the iPhone Health app, as well as personalize workout experience using the Apple Watch.
  • Ability to sync and share results with social networks (Facebook and Twitter), as well as sharing snapshots of the training with friends, which increases the opportunity for specified social sharing (motivating partnership,support and competition).
  • Individualized exercise opportunities and ability to design custom workouts, taking into account individual variability in the response to fitness programs.
  • Inclusion of exercises for the whole body and not only one muscle group, using body weight as the only form of resistance.
  • Provision of instructional video demonstrations for every exercise, making it easier to learn how to perform safely and efficiently a specific exercise.
  • An option to add time for warm-up and stretching cool-down sessions is included.
  • Great solution for anyone looking for simple and of minimal constraints short duration workout to initiate training, as it triggers improvements at the level of body composition and weight and thus boosts self-motivation.5

CONS

  • The database of workout items and sessions is relatively small compared to other similar apps.
  • Lack of longitudinal exercise monitoring, creation of activity history and progression elements.6
  • Reliability, validity and effectiveness of the app are still unclear and further research is necessary.
  • Missing an in-app calorie counter and weight-tracking feature.
  • Passive personal information collection (gathered without the user actively providing the information) and subsequently use for business purposes.
  • The app does not address any safety concerns.Caution should be taken when it is used by physically inactive and high-risk individuals, including those with one or more chronic health conditions and cardiovascular diseases. Medical clearance from a physician may be an appropriate safety measure for anyone with these conditions.
  • According to the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines, the app has low-quality content in aerobic, resistance and flexibility components.6
  • For anyone who wants to maximize specific fitness goals (i.e. building muscle endurance or increasing strength), the 7 Minute Workout is not a well-designed routine because the 30-second duration of the exercises without added resistance is not the optimal approach.

***

Manolis Adamakis is a Lecturer in Physical Education (PE) at the Department of Sport Studies and Physical Education of the School of Education, University College Cork, Ireland. His research focuses on PE Teacher Education programmes, new technologies in PE, with a primary interest in smartphone applications, and the promotion of youth’s physical activity through new technologies.ResearchGate profile:here. Email: manosadam@phed.uoa.gr

Competing interests

None

References

1 Klika B, Jordan C. High-intensity circuit training using body weight: Maximum results with minimum investment. ACSMs Health Fit J2013;17(3):8-13. doi: 10.1249/FIT.0b013e31828cb1e8

2 Gibala MJ, Little JP, MacDonald MJ, Hawley JA. Physiological adaptations to low‐volume, high‐intensity interval training in health and disease. J Physiol2012;590(5):1077-84. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.224725

3 Brad R. High-Intensity Interval Training: Efficient, effective, and a fun way to exercise brought to you by the American College of Sports Medicine. ACSMs Health Fit J2013;7(3):3. doi: 10.1249/FIT.0b013e31828cb21c

4 Gillen JB, Percival ME, Skelly LE, Martin BJ, Tan RB, et al. Three minutes of all-out intermittent exercise per week increases skeletal muscle, oxidative capacity and improves cardiometabolic health. PLoS ONE2014;9(11):e111489. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111489

5 Mattar L, Farran N, Bakhour D. Effect of 7-minute workout on weight and body composition. J Sports Med Phys Fitness2017;57(10):1299-1304. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707

6 Modave F, Bian J, Leavitt T, Bromwell J, Harris C, Vincent H. Low quality of free coaching apps with respect to the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines: A review of current mobile apps. JMIR mHealth uHealth2015;3(3):e77. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.4669

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