7-Minute Workout for Business Travelers

How to get an entire workout done in only seven minutes

Businessman Doing Push-ups
••• Don't skip your exercise while on the road. Adie Bush/The Image Bank/Getty images

When I travel, one of the things that's easy to let slip--even when I don't want it to--is exercise. In between making my flights, changing hotels, and getting to my meetings on time, there's little time left for a solid, heart-pumping workout.

But maybe there's hope! To help business travelers find new ways to fit effective exercise into a busy business travel schedule, I interviewed Chris Jordan, director of Exercise Physiology at the Human Performance Institute. The Human Performance Institute is a division of Wellness & Prevention, a Johnson & Johnson company. Chris designed and implemented the exercise and movement components of the Institute’s Corporate Athlete and is responsible for the development and execution of all corporate fitness programming.

Institute Director of Exercise Physiology Chris Jordan and Human Performance Institute Performance Coach Brett Klika co-authored an article on the science behind High-Intensity Circuit Training (HICT) and gave an example of a what a proper workout using those principles would look like. That "7-minute" workout is perfect for business travelers because in addition to not taking much time, it also relies only on body-weight exercises, meaning you don't have to have any fancy (or heavy) equipment with you to do it while traveling.

What are some of the problems business travelers have fitting fitness in while traveling?

Business travelers, or "Corporate Athletes" as we call them at the Human Performance Institute, spend much of their time sitting on a plane, work very long hours, are always available by their Smartphone, have minimal "down time," may not have easy access to a gym at their home or hotel, and may not even have the time or motivation to engage in a traditional prolonged workout.

Describe the 7-minute workout.

It is a high-intensity circuit training (HICT) workout combining both aerobic exercises and resistance exercises using only body weight. There are 12 exercises in total, each performed for 30 seconds in quick succession with minimal rest between exercises. One circuit, with 5-10 seconds rest/transition between exercises, totals approximately 7 minutes.

Full details of the workout can be found in the original article in the journal.

What was the need/reason for its creation?

I designed this HICT workout for time-constrained business executives or "Corporate Athletes." This workout is designed so that it could be performed in a hotel room with nothing more than a floor, a wall, and a chair, and incorporates both aerobic and resistance exercises. It is deliberately based upon High-Intensity Interval Training to be a short, intense, non-stop workout. It is a simple and accessible exercise solution for almost anyone, anywhere, anytime, which can provide a safe, effective, and very efficient workout.

Even the single parent who cannot afford a gym membership or expensive home fitness equipment could utilize it.

How does it differ from alternatives (existing workouts, just hitting the gym, etc.)?

It is a high-intensity circuit training workout. Circuit-style training incorporating resistance exercise has been around in one form or another for some time. The modern form of circuit training was developed in England in 1953. However, my design specifically incorporates both aerobic exercises (e.g. jumping jacks, running in place) and multi-joint resistance exercises (e.g. push-ups, squats) in a specific sequence to increase the intensity and decrease total workout time.

The specific exercise sequence allows one muscle group to somewhat recover while another is being exercised. For example, lunges are followed by push-up & rotation. So the legs get a break while you are doing the push-ups. This allows you to put more energy and intensity into each exercise and move immediately with minimal rest between exercises. This can mean a very short, but effective workout.

How could a 7-minute workout possibly work?

Ideally, we recommend 2-3 circuits for an approximately 15 to 20-minute workout on three non-consecutive days each week. However, this workout is based upon high-intensity interval training and our research indicates fitness benefits can be attained from high-intensity interval workouts in as little as four minutes.

The key is intensity. The greater the intensity, the shorter the workout can potentially be to provide similar fitness benefits. At the correct intensity, a single 7-minute circuit, performed regularly on three non-consecutive days a week could provide moderate aerobic and muscular fitness benefits.

In addition, a single 7-minute circuit can boost your energy levels for some time after the workout is over. Of course, you should exercise within your safe limits so we recommend anyone wishing to try this workout to get medical clearance from their physician and use a certified fitness professional to assess their fitness and guide them through their first workout.

HICT workouts can also be helpful for individuals trying to lose weight and body fat. First, HICT workouts burn a lot of calories in a relatively short workout making them fast and efficient for weight loss. Second, these high intensity workouts can increase the post-workout calorie afterburn more than moderate intensity workouts. Third, incorporating resistance exercise helps retain muscle mass and promote fat loss. Finally, HICT workouts produce higher levels of catecholamines and growth hormone, both during and after the workout, which can further promote fat loss.

Lots of business travelers focus on cardio when traveling (jogging, walking, treadmills, etc.); is there anything wrong with that?

Resistance training is equally important as aerobic (cardio) training. Resistance training helps maintain our muscle mass, drive our metabolism, keep our muscles, bones and joints strong, prevent injuries, and improve our body composition.

Generally, you should perform two resistance training workouts each week. Skipping your resistance workout while traveling can lead to loss of muscle mass and compromise your overall fitness program. My HICT workout combines both aerobic and resistance training in a quick workout to help our Corporate Athletes maintain both aerobic and resistance training while "on-the-road."

What aspect of good exercise practice do most people miss (or mess up on)? What’s most likely to be missing from a workout?

Business travelers often skip resistance training and focus on aerobic training when they are away from home (see above).

Since business travelers are short on time, stretching after the workout is often skipped. This can lead to tight muscles and discomfort when sitting on planes and in long meetings. Poor flexibility can also compromise your exercise form and technique and make you more prone to injury.

Business travelers may also feel fatigued after international flights and long meetings. This can lead to prolonged, less motivated and energized workouts such as jogging at a comfortable slow pace for an hour or a drawn out resistance workout using lighter weights than usual and perhaps even poor form and technique. This is quantity over quality. Workouts should be quality over quantity. Business travelers would be better off getting some recovery and a snack after a long flight or meeting, then performing a short, challenging, and safe workout.