Micro-Workouts: The Secret of Busy, Fit Women


Sure, hour-long workouts are great if you have the time. But for the other 362 days of the year, you need to exercise more efficiently. Hello, Micro-Workouts! “The idea, backed by science, is that if you work out smarter, you don’t have to work out longer,” says Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute and creator of the original 7-minute workout that was featured in the New York Times.

Fast Track to Health

The key is interval training: alternating bursts of high intensity activity with brief recovery periods. “One minute of vigorous exercise is approximately equivalent to two minutes of moderate exercise, so you can get the same, if not greater, returns in less time,” Jordan explains.

You can shave off even more time with the right sequence of exercises. “You’ll work harder and need less recovery time with each individual exercise if those muscles get a relief when you move to the next exercise,” Jordan says. In other words, you save time by overlapping recovery periods with your active minutes.

7 Mighty Minutes

So how short can you go with your workout and still have it count? “Some exercise—even a few minutes—is always better than nothing,” Jordan says. But for a complete body workout, he found seven minutes to be the optimal minimum.

His 7-minute training plan works all the major muscle groups and involves 12 simple exercises (think jumping jacks and wall sits). You do them in 30-second bursts, alternating with 5-second transition periods. The best thing about the workout: Jordan created it with the working person in mind, so it can be done in an office or cubicle—and you don’t need any special equipment or clothes. “I’ve actually done it in a suit, but you probably don’t want to do it in a dress or skirt,” he adds.

Get the free “Johnson & Johnson Official 7-Minute Workout.” (It includes more than 20 different body weight circuits for beginners to advanced exercisers.)

Beyond Calorie Burning

Microbursts are also a great way to boost energy throughout the day. “Imagine how you feel standing up and going for a walk after sitting for a while,” Jordan says. “That’s all it takes to promote blood circulation and push more glucose and oxygen around the body.”

To rev your metabolism, break up long periods of sitting with short bursts of activity such as standing and walking to the bathroom or up and down a flight of stairs. “Ideally, you want to be getting up for a couple of minutes at least every hour,” Jordan adds. Stuck in a chair during a marathon meeting? Try stretching your back and shoulders and discreetly raising your knees up and down under the table as though you’re marching. You will relieve tension—and may feel like you could hoof a real marathon.