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Is a 30-Minute Workout Really Enough?

Posted by Jaime Monsen, Certified Health Coach on Jan 20, 2016
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Most sports apparel commercials feature athletes engaging in several hours of exercise and dripping with sweat. These athletes embody the important benefits of working out: fit and strong bodies, increased cardiovascular performance, better cognitive function and more energy.

But when you think of achieving these benefits for yourself, most people find it hard to find the time to devote even an hour per day to exercise, let alone the intense workouts we have come to think of as normal. Therefore, if you can’t invest that kind of time and energy, you might as well do nothing, right?


While moving your body frequently throughout the day is a good idea, the American Heart Association recommends a standard activity level of 150 minutes per week. This amount can be broken down any way you wish and, when spread over a 5-day work week, results in a recommended 30 minutes per day.

30 Minutes of Exercise Can Significantly Improve Your Health

is-a-30-minute-workout-really-enough.jpgIs 30 minutes really enough time for a workout? Yes, it is! Most people think that if they can only fit in 30 minutes of exercise it won’t be enough, especially compared to a 45-minute spin class or a 1-hour yoga class. However, 30 minutes of exercise is more than enough time to get in a great workout. You just have to do it the right way.

Think of a small amount of exercise like continuously depositing money into a bank account. Even if the contribution is small, it helps to grow the overall wealth of the account over time. When it comes to exercise, even if you’re working out for a shorter amount of time, you are still benefiting your health by building strength and endurance.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, build muscle mass or maintain your current weight, 30 minutes of exercise can help you stay on track and reach your goals.

Four Principles of Exercise

When you work out, there are four principles that guide the value of your exercise: frequency, intensity, time and type. When you can exercise for a long period of time, such as a 3-4 hour hike, you tone down the frequency, intensity and type of exercise to allow your body to finish the hike without getting hurt or overwhelmed.

When you have less time to commit to your exercise, you need to maximize the other three, frequency, intensity and type. You can do this by using compound movements, full body exercises and working out at a higher intensity than you might be used to, which will strengthen your cardiovascular health.

The Best 30-Minute Exercise

When you only have a short amount of time to exercise, maximize your efficiency:

  • Create a plan of attack in advance so you don’t need to spend time thinking about each transition you make. Work with someone else to plan it out or have it written down so that you don’t waste any downtime.
  • Consider new high-intensity exercises like Tabata Training (you can also find free videos on YouTube by using the search term “Tabata Training”). This high-intensity interval training can incorporate anything from a jumping jack to a burpee to dumbbells in a rotation of 3-4 exercises.
  • Find ways to exercise the same muscles in new ways with compound movements that use more than one muscle to perform an action.

When you only have 30 minutes to work out, focus on quality rather than quantity. Pay special attention to your form, technique and breathing, and focus on the connection between your mind and your body. Engage every muscle possible in each movement.

As with anything in life, 30 minutes is all about how you use it. Whether your goal is to work out more, run an errand or send an email, if you have 30 minutes and you’re able to accomplish any part of the task, it’s worth it to accomplish at least that much rather than being unproductive.

So when you have a small segment of time that you can use for exercise, do it! It’s always worth it and will result in an enormous contribution to your health over time.

Learn more about how exercising regularly can increase your overall health and wellness in our free eBook:

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Topics: Lifestyle & Wellness

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