Before the pandemic hit, I was a fitness class junkie.

A typical week of classes for me included boxing, rowing, HIIT, boot camp and — if I was feeling sore or stressed — the occasional yoga or Pilates class to balance it all out.

So when I went from that rigorous schedule to rarely leaving my 500-square-foot studio apartment last March, I’m sure my activity tracker thought I bit the dust.

I knew I had to do something to stay active. But the idea of working out virtually with instructors I used to see in person left me more depressed than motivated.

As I scrolled through Apple TV’s innumerable fitness offerings, a familiar app caught my eye: The “7 Minute Workout.” I still had the free version downloaded on my phone, which I used to squeeze in a quick workout once when I was on vacation (remember those?). Instead of continuing to scroll through the seemingly endless workout options available, I decided to go with what I knew. Seven minutes of exercise seemed better than scrolling into oblivion.

Little did I know this app would become my lifeline through almost a year of working out at home.

The basics: cost and equipment

It’s worth noting that there are several versions of the 7 Minute Workout out there on the market. The one I opted to use on Apple TV is from Wahoo Fitness. One of the best parts about the 7 Minute Workout app is that there’s no equipment required. As long as you have a sturdy chair or stool in your possession for step-ups and an empty wall for wall sits, you’re good to go. If you want to track your progress, Wahoo’s TICKRx tracker can be synced to count your reps and calories — but it’s not required.

The original 7 Minute Workout is free. There are seven other variations available on the app: the alternative 7 Minute Workout, which features different takes on the 12 moves from the original, as well as 7 Minute Core, 7 Minute Pilates, 7 Minute Cardio, 7 Minute Arms, 7 Minute Toning and (my personal favorite) 7 Minute Booty. You can buy each of these individually for a one-time fee of 99 cents, or all of them for $9.99 — which, pro tip: is not as cost-effective as buying them separately. If you want to customize your own workout, you can do so for $1.99.

What the workout entails

The original 7 Minute Workout cycles through 12 body-weight exercises. Essentially, it’s high-intensity circuit training that strategically incorporates strength training to work all of the major muscle groups in as little time as possible. The moves are all familiar and accessible, from jumping jacks to planks, squats and high knees. Each movement is done for 30 seconds at your all-out maximum, with 10 seconds of rest in between, allowing you time to get into position for whatever move comes next.

I opted to use the 7 Minute Workout app on my Apple TV for ease of viewability — and because there’s a very in-shape woman who demonstrates each move. Once you start the app, a robotic female voice counts down from 10 and previews the next move in the series.

My experience using the “7 Minute Workout” app

Every day of this pandemic has been unpredictable, and I wasn’t in the mental space to experiment with any variation when it came to my workout.

Don’t underestimate how hard a seven-minute workout can be. My first time through, I truly gave my maximum effort during each 30-second burst and by the end, I was winded and sweaty. For weeks afterward, the 7 Minute Workout was the only type of exercise I could motivate myself to do. Every day of this pandemic has been unpredictable, and I wasn’t in the mental space to experiment with any variation when it came to my workout. I wanted something consistent that I knew would leave me feeling accomplished in a small amount of time, and the 7 Minute Workout delivered every time.

I did, however, start experimenting with the other variations of the 7 Minute Workout. I started 7 Minute Core, a challenging circuit, but not so hard that I couldn’t bookend that workout with the original 7 Minute Workout. I eventually came to own all the 7’s and would cycle through them at various points throughout my work day. Sometimes I’d put one on before or after a meeting, or around the time that afternoon slump would hit to give myself an extra burst of energy to power through the rest of my day. Within six weeks of first using the app, I was averaging three to four 7 minute workouts per day — almost a half hours’ worth of daily exercise.

The pros

I’m not going to lie and tell you that this app completely transformed my body. The 7 Minute Workout is a great tool to have in your pandemic survival kit, and it can help with weight loss and weight maintenance when paired with a healthy diet. But you’re not going to get chiseled abs solely from the 7 Minute Workout.

What you will get is a workout that leaves you feeling energized and accomplished; one that you don’t need to block out your calendar for during the day. Being able to do this workout at any time I felt motivated enough was a game-changer and kept me coming back for more.

The cons

The robotic woman’s voice gets to you after awhile. I recommend blasting some workout music along with the app once you know the sequence of moves and don’t need to listen to her cues because she’s pretty irritating. At least you only have to listen to her for seven minutes.

When you’re working out at this high of an intensity, proper form is essential. I overdid it when I first started using this app when I wasn’t paying enough attention to my squat form. So if you’re going to use the app, it’s worth revisiting the right way to do each exercise before pressing play to avoid injury.

There’s no warmup. Jumping jacks are the first move in the 7 Minute Workout, which will get your body warm. But because the moves on the app are designed to be done at your maximum effort level, I’d suggest doing some light cardio before your first circuit.

I would recommend this workout to:

  • Anyone living in a small space with no gym equipment.
  • People who think about working out but then decide they don’t have time.
  • Folks who can’t decide what to watch on Netflix, let alone what workout they should try.
  • Those who want to increase their daily activity levels without spending a lot of time or money doing so.