How 30-Minutes of Exercise is More Effective than Longer Workouts



“When working out, length is not a substitute for intensity.” — Bill Loguidice

Long ago, a friend of mine convinced me we could get better results by working out with more intensity, in shorter bursts.

He was right.

The results were amazing, and I ended up applying the same idea of short-burst, high-intensity beyond the gym to knowledge work and productivity.

Anyway, there is science behind 30-minute workouts.  Here are some insightful nuggets from the Beachbody Fitness Guide for the P90X3 workout (extreme fitness accelerated.)

I was willing to carve 30 minutes a day to get in serious shape, but I needed a system that embraced the idea of short, intense workouts, and that’s exactly what P90X3 does.

30 Minutes is More “Doable”

If you’re only working out for 30 minutes, it’s easier to push harder.  It’s more like a sprint, and less like a marathon.  It’s more focused, which helps you get better results.  Most importantly though, because it’s only 30 minutes, you are far more likely to fit it in your already busy schedule.

Via Beachbody Fitness Guide for the P90X3 workout:

“In 2013, a university study found that the results of intense exercise were comparable between 30- and 60-minute durations.  Participants burned a similar amount of body fat and calories and lost the same amount of overall weight.  The researchers attributed  this to participants finding half an hour of exercise more ‘doable’ in their schedules, and in their mental states.  The light at the end of the tunnel appearing 30 minutes closer results in the exercises pushing themselves even harder to reach their potential, and often gave them greater energy for the rest of their day.  This results in more calories burned, and surprisingly, less calories being consumed overall.”

The Lion’s Share of Gains is in the First 30 Minutes

You get the most benefit of your workouts within the first 30 minutes.

Via Beachbody Fitness Guide for the P90X3 workout:

“Even more significantly, studies have conclusively shown that after about 30 minutes, your body’s ability to respond to exercise begins to decrease, meaning that the lion’s share of your fitness gains occur in the first half hour, regardless of how many hours you continue to work out.  While elite athletes and endurance junkies still benefit from an hour or more of exercise, the law of diminishing returns dictates that for most of your 30 minutes is more than enough to get ripped.”

Strategy is Far More Important Than Time

Your exercise strategy matters more than the amount of time you actually work out.  That’s why a shorter-burst, higher-intensity workout can produce better results than a longer workout, with lower intensity.

Via Beachbody Fitness Guide for the P90X3 workout:

“In 2012, two important studies were published out of the University of Copenhagen.  The first got most of the press, leading many headlines to state ’30 Minutes of Exercise Better Than an Hour.’  While that was an exaggeration of the facts, the study did show that exercise strategy was far more important than time.

‘No statistically significant changes were found in energy intake or non-exercise physical activity that could explain the different compensatory responses associated with 30 vs. 60 minutes of daily aerobic exercise.  In conclusion, a similar body fat loss was obtained regardless of exercise dose.  A moderate dose of exercise induced a markedly greater than expected negative energy balance, while a higher dose induced a small but quantifiable degree of compensation.’”

I think this is another great example of how to get more out of life, by figuring out where the value is, and focusing on that.  It might not sound like a lot, but by shaving 30 minutes or more off your workouts, down to the essentials, more people will find it possible to workout, as well as make space for other things.

In my case, I start my day with my 30 minute workout so that I have more energy to make it through the rest of my day.

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Image by The U.S. Army.