The 60-Minute Workout is Dead

By , SparkPeople Blogger
An hour might not seem like a long time when you're catching up on your favorite Netflix show, reading a great book or enjoying dinner with a friend. But if you're new to the fitness scene, a consecutive 60 minutes of exercise can feel like an eternity.
Even a seasoned gym-goer who loves getting their sweat on, might have a jam-packed schedule that makes finding time for an hour-long workout feel like acrobatics in itself.
For decades, we've been conditioned to accept the “power hour" as the acceptable length of an effective workout. Most gyms and fitness studios tend to offer their classes in 60-minute increments. It's easy to fall into the all-or-nothing mentality, assuming that it's not worth the effort of changing your clothes and driving to your destination if you don't have a full hour to commit to spinning, yoga, weight lifting or whatever happens to be your activity of choice.
Fortunately, that "hour or bust" school of thought is quickly getting debunked. Experts agree that the quantity of movement isn't always important, but the quality always is.
"Moving is moving," Luke Andrus, personal trainer and health coach at Anytime Fitness, explans. "And even if you only have 15 minutes, that’s still 15 minutes that you’ve done something. These things add up."

Why Is an Hour Not Necessary?

While the American College of Sports Medicine does recommend that adults participate in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, it doesn’t stipulate that those have to be comprised of 60-minute workouts. Despite popular opinion, you're free to carve up those 150 minutes in whatever way works for your schedule and lifestyle.
"It’s often unrealistic to expect someone to take the time to work out for 60 minutes when they have to drive to and from the gym, and spending time getting dressed or showering after," says Andrus. "An intense 30-minute workout is much easier to fit into someone’s lunch break or in the morning before work."
Another factor is performance. As Andrus points out, if you're doing a 60-minute workout, chances are good that you might trail off or get fatigued during the last half. But if the workout is just 30 minutes, you’ll use most of your energy where it counts and waste less time during the fatigued moments.
"If you’re working out for an hour, your average intensity may be lower, or you may take more recovery time than you would in a shorter workout," says Andrus. "If either of these occur, your caloric burn may be less."
When working with clients, he recommends that they complete five 30-minute workouts instead of three 60-minute sessions. Although it adds up to fewer minutes overall, the time spent will likely be more efficient, have better form and torch more calories.

Ideas for Squeezing in Quick Workouts

For those of us who don't have the opportunity (or the inclination) to spend an hour or more at the gym each day, Andrus offers some ideas for squeezing in abbreviated sessions that will help you reach your goals without compromising your schedule:
  • HIIT It. High-intensity interval training is a form of training that involves short intervals of maximum-intensity exercise separated by longer intervals of low- to moderate-intensity exercise. The main benefit of HIIT is that it increases the number of calories you burn during (and after) your exercise session, because it extends the length of time it takes your body to recover. HIIT can be done anywhere, from the treadmill at the gym to your neighborhood sidewalk or a staircase in your house. 
  • Do bite-sized mini-workouts throughout the day. Think you don't have time to exercise? Instead of looking for long chunks and coming up short, think smaller—you may be surprised by how many hidden opportunities you find. Some ideas for "fitness hacks" include walking while on a phone call, lifting small free weights at your desk, doing calf raises while standing in line, choosing staircases over elevators and walking for 15 minutes before or after lunch.
  • Do something you enjoy after work. There are plenty of activities that don't involve the gym, but still burn calories and strengthen muscles. Whether it's walking the dog, throwing the football with the kids, weeding the garden or cleaning the kitchen, every movement counts toward your goal. Resist the idea that you have to change into workout gear and be in "official" exercise mode in order for the movement to be meaningful.
  • Be an active parent. For busy moms and dads who are juggling a million and one daily tasks, it can seem impossible to find time for a sweat sesh—but it's important to find ways to stay active, both for the sake of your own self-care and to set a healthy example for the little ones watching.

Reduction Rules to Get the Most out of Every Workout

Once you've found some pockets of time to squeeze in your abbreviated workouts, it's important to make the most of every minute, and to ensure that you’re getting maximum quality and results. To that end, Andrus offers some "reduction rules" for implementing shorter, yet effective workouts into your schedule.
  • Increase the intensity, but don’t ditch the warm-up. "Warm-ups are essential for safety and effectiveness," says Andrus. "If you’re going to drop to 30-minute workouts, spend at least five minutes of your time slowly ramping up your heart rate and core temperature. Then, in the 20 to 25 minutes you have left, aim to be uncomfortable."
  • Add frequency, but don’t skip the active recovery days. Although it's optimal to aim for the ACSM's guideline of 150 minutes of total exercise each week for good health and well-being, Andrus says it’s still important to include active recovery days to stay injury-free and sidestep burnout. Try a few days each week of high(er) intensity exercise mixed with days of yoga, walking, paddle boarding, leisurely bike riding or whatever type of active rest activity you prefer.
  • Move more, but don’t rely on pedometers. Even if you're following these guidelines to the letter, workouts are only part of the equation. "We’re learning, every day, how detrimental sitting is to our health," says Andrus. "The 'move more' mantra has been out there for a while now, but we’re relying on the number of steps we take to give us a virtual thumbs-up. Movement actually means changing positions and doing so frequently." Try setting a timer to make sure you move around at least one minute each hour as often as you can.

25-Minute Lunchtime Bodyweight Workout

Try this quick yet effective lunchtime workout that lets you work the whole body, while still having time for a healthy meal afterward. No equipment required!

Andrus recommends performing these exercises with a moderate pace and limited rest. Make the most of every minute!

25 push-ups (or modified push-ups)

25 single leg bridges (each leg)

25 plank jumping jacks

25 step-ups (each leg)

30-second side plank with arm lift (each side)

100 jumping jacks
Break for one minute, and then repeat. Continue for 25 minutes.

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SHERYE 10/3/2019
Loved this article it made so much sense to me on how to improve my workouts Report
AMBER461 8/24/2019
Great ideas. Report
DEBVNE 8/24/2019
I am lucky enough to have the time to workout when I want to. This is such a gift. There was a huge part of my life when this wasn’t possible. I respect that this article encourages each of us to find what works for us. We’re given options to explore what makes Something will always beat nothing. It simply requires that we look for the possibilities and seize those moments to squeeze in workouts. Report
BMEWWLOSER 8/24/2019
Now that I am retired, my time is flexible. I love being able to work out mornings and love my classes which typically run 55 minutes. My "new" job is keeping my body in as good a shape as possible at age 78. My mornings are spent at the gym, all appointments are made after 2:00 pm. I feel very fortunate to be able to live this life style. As I get older, I will modify as needed, but will continue my "gym time" as long as my health allows. Fortunately, I love working out and staying strong. Report
BTINCHER2001 8/23/2019
Grin! My workouts are typically 50minutes to allow for arrival and departure time. Ha! Report
NDCAROL 8/23/2019
Certainly agree with the general idea - work in exercise in shorter segments. But can't do several of the exercises listed due to many of the reasons others listed. Report
NIKO27 8/20/2019
Great Article
I put in 1 hour every morning (I get up at 4:30 am) then I put in 10 minute segments throughout the day to get in an average of 2 hours a day. Because of the regiment I have never felt so healthy and my numbers have never been so good. People tell me that I look better than men twenty years younger than me. Report
SHOAPIE 7/26/2019
Thank you. Report
PWILLOW1 7/22/2019
Thank you. Report
SDANLSON 7/13/2019
Plank Jumping Jacks might work for me since fibromyalgia makes them uncomfortable especially in my feet - there are lots of perijoint aeas there if you are in the minority having problems there. I would need to modify it along with some of the other exercises shown using the fisted form to keep my wrists straight. Report
SOAPIT 7/6/2019
Good article. An hour is daunting, especially to a "newbie" in the fitness world. 30 minutes is doable. I just started the Jessica Smith 21 day program and she has HIIT in it as well. That was a bit overwhelming but I can do anything for 2 minutes! Report
KHALIA2 5/23/2019
I agree! SOMETHING is always better than NOTHING! Report
4DOGMOM1 5/20/2019
thanks Report
2DAWN4 5/4/2019
I try to walk 10 minutes 3 times a day! Report
RO2BENT 5/4/2019
But there’s nothing wrong with the “power hour” Report
RO2BENT 4/6/2019
Gotta do the hard work Report
DRAGONFLY631 4/6/2019
Thanks for the info Report
PIKA1319 3/22/2019
Why is this particular workout being recommended under the "Limited Mobility" challenge? Even some people who aren't limited would have a hard time doing all of this! Report
I have been doing 4 minute HIIT on my exercise bike. Whew! Pretty intense. I will be increasing the time next week. Report
LEANJEAN6 3/7/2019
I really like short 10 minute workouts --but=--after one 10 minute stint, I find it hard to get to workout #2 and #3 Report
CLAYMACT 3/1/2019
Push-ups and planks. Push-ups and planks! I can't do those. I can't get my wrists at 90 degrees. Physically impossible. No push-ups. As for the planks, can't do the shoulders, either, due to past surgeries, even if I pose on my forearms and elbows. Report
DMEYER4 2/20/2019
thanks Report
CATNAP629 2/2/2019
good ideas Report
RAZZOOZLE 1/21/2019
thank you Report
Great article; unfortunately, I'm unable to do majority of excercises shown as I can't raise my right arm higher than chest high due to recent rotator cuff surgery involving a bicep tenotomy :-( Report
PLATINUM755 1/3/2019
Less time and more effective...I like it! Report
NASFKAB 12/25/2018
Useful Report
JAMER123 11/26/2018
Good exercises but I am no longer able to do a few of them. Seems "old time" PE is popping up again. Report
MILTONS_MAMA 11/3/2018
Great ideas! (Don't love the title, though. Death isn't funny.) Report
FISHGUT3 11/2/2018
thanks Report
It is great to remember we can always move at our own pace and any movement is better than no movement. Report
Thank you. Report
I'm going to follow THELUCKYWIFE and do what I can. I won't stress the rest! Report
Fabulous Report
Thank you for helpful suggestions. Report
Ten minute chunks of exercise are so much easier for me to do. Report
So glad we don’t need an hour! Report
I do 2 to 3 10 to 15 minute intentional exercise sessions a day. If I have more time I will do a solid half hour but if not 10 minutes here or there works for me. I never do less than 30 minutes of aerobic/cardio exercise a day. Lots of great Spark TV and YouTube videos to help get the job done. Report
Good article, I like the variety and types of exercise when I do them in 10 minutes increments! Report
I have forsaken the shopping cart at the grocery and department stores, counting my shopping trips with my wife as my walking time. I have consequently strengthened my legs and can now walk much longer and easier. Report
I have been doing several 15 or 20 minute walks a day for awhile now. It works well for me. Report
Reminds me of "give an inch, take a mile" I like to discover that making 10 minutes grew into 15, 20 minutes. I can do this. Report
I've got a short attention span -- short interval exercises are the best way for me to go! 8-) Report
I can do this! Report
Love these exercises. I can't do some of them, but I can do most! Report
Though we travel the world to find beauty, we must carry it with us or we find it not. - Emerson ~ 4/10/18 Report
Short, small amounts of exerciser can really pay off. Report
Good ideas. Report
Awesome! Thank you! Report