It's one-and-a-half weeks to the Year of the Rat and you're popping pineapple tarts and licking bak kwa grease off your fingers, while simultaneously wondering if you can still fit into the CNY cheongsam you bought last month and trying to figure out when the last time you exercised was. You don't have time/moolah to hit the gym or hire a personal trainer, and suddenly, the idea of exercising at home, for free, is quite appealing. You Google free workouts on YouTube, and the seemingly perfect workout pops out at you: THE 7-MINUTE WORKOUT. Exercise just seven minutes a day for seven days to lose fats and drop inches off your waist! Seven minutes... it's almost nothing. You spend three times as long scrolling through Instagram and don't even notice it. You'll probably take longer to read this 8days.sg article.
Tell you what, we've tried it and we'll tell you all about it, plus we check in with a PT to tell you whether he thinks this is a 7-minute miracle or a 7-minute scam.
There are several 7-minute workout videos by different trainers on YouTube, but this one by British fitness personality Lucy Wyndham-Read is apparently the most-viewed workout video, with a whopping 47.5 million views (despite the rudimentary graphics and editing). Lucy has 1.08 million subscribers on her channel, where she has a bunch of other 7-minute videos to tone up different areas of your body. But this one, titled "7 DAY CHALLENGE 7 MINUTE WORKOUT TO LOSE BELLY FAT - HOME WORKOUT TO LOSE INCHES" is the most popular.
Basically, you warm up for a minute by marching on the spot, then begin a series of seven exercises that are one minute each, followed by a two-minute cool-down. Add that there is a break of about 10 seconds in between each exercise, and the whole thing takes actually about 11 minutes, which is still an incredibly short amount of time to be working out and seeing results, especially when Lucy promises that at the end of seven days, you WILL lose between one to two inches from your waist.
In the name of research, we duly measured our waist before starting on the 7-day challenge. On Day 1, we were honestly quite winded by the end of the seven minutes, which included a minute of straight-leg high kicks, a minute of skater's lunges, and a minute of abdominal crunches with bicycle kicks, among others. We're not super unfit, so the breathlessness and the amount of sweat pouring out surprised us. It could be that our muscles are not used to these particular exercises, or that there wasn't much time to chill in between each rather intense exercise, or maybe, it was our fats burning and burning and burning. Yes!
By Day 2 and 3, things got easier as we got accustomed to the exercises, and to Lucy's voice telling us that we will lose weight and burn calories and that we have to trust her 'cos she's a qualified weight loss and fitness expert with 25 years of experience. We keep it up for seven days in a row, 'cos Lucy says we must, and 'cos we want results. Even on a Saturday night when we came home past midnight, we rolled out the ol' yoga mat and did our seven minutes. Yes, such dedication.
So... results. We eagerly measured our waist on Day 8 and... it looks like the tape measure is a notch shorter... maybe? Let's just say there was a loss of about 1cm. Not quite the one to two inches promised by Lucy, but then again, she had a caveat: You have to eat healthily and watch your diet. Did we do that? Um, maybe? Maybe not? Whatever it is, whether there was inch loss or not, we have to conclude that being 'forced' to exercise every day is a good thing. You feel less lethargic as you're at least moving and sweating daily, even if it's just for 10 minutes or so, and maybe psychologically, you feel better and fitter.
But what do the experts think? We check in with David Ng, personal trainer and founder of Ultralete Fitness, to get his professional opinion on the 7-minute workout.
So, the good news first. David says that the workout could be a good start for someone who is inactive, and who does zero exercise. That's because something is better than nothing, and if the idea of exercising for such a short period of time appeals to someone who would otherwise not work out at all, it can only be a good thing.
But he pooh poohs the claim that one can lose one to two inches at the waist after just one week, saying that one to two inches is quite significant, and thus not realistic. He tells 8days.sg, "The words the trainer uses, such as 'shaping' and 'toning' the waist — it can be quite misleading. Spot reduction is not possible. You're not able to choose which area of the body you lose fat at, just like you cannot choose which area of the body you gain fat at. What you can do is gain muscle in a particular area. So if you're training and toning your arms, for example, and losing weight overall at the same time, it can seem like you've lost fat at your arms, when you've actually gained muscle and tone."
Adds David, "The 7-minute workout also says you have to follow a healthy diet. The fact is that if you're eating healthily and are on a calorie deficit (consuming fewer calories than is needed to maintain your current body weight), you will lose body fats."
"The 7-minute workout is not going to work long term, as your body needs more stimulus as you carry on. If you're serious about real progress and benefits, you need more intense resistance training. Even if you lose weight in the beginning, the amount of calories you need to consume to continue the weight loss has to drop, which is not sustainable. The more sustainable way is to build muscle and increase your metabolism with resistance training."
So it seems there aren't any shortcuts to weight loss and good health, and that while the 7-minute workout is better than no workout, for long term and sustainable fitness and weight loss, other methods (probably longer than seven minutes) are necessary. Online, reviews for Lucy's 7-minute workout range from positive (some claim they lost an incredible amount of weight) to meh ("no difference!").
David has some advice for those looking to slim down post-CNY feasting: "Don't beat yourself up for eating too much or gaining weight. And don't turn to drastic ways to lose weight like fad diets or crash diets. Reduce your calorie intake slowly, and eat healthier meals after CNY. Stay active every day. And seriously consider embarking on a resistance training programme."
The 7-minute workout can be found here.
For more info about resistance training and personal training, and to get a free gym trial, check out David's website at www.ultraletefitness.com.