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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JUSTJ2014 5/3/2021
Great article Report
CD26508743 3/16/2021
Good Report
NANHBH 3/6/2021
Good stuff! Report
AQUAGIRL08 3/4/2021
I used to do about 2 hours per day. It was way too much. Once I cut it back, I was able to do shorter workouts and more overall moving around per day. It’s a win-win for sure! Report
CKEYES1 2/16/2021
I still do 60 mins. Report
CD26508743 2/13/2021
Good?? Report
VHAYES04 2/1/2021
Ty Report
BOB5148 12/23/2020
Thanks Report
FISHGUT3 12/5/2020
thanks Report
JULIJULINN 11/23/2020
Great ideas. Report
Every little bit helps. Report
AGEJEW 10/28/2020
Of the 5 recommended exercises, I'm pretty sure my knees won't let me do 4 of them. Since this is part of the Limited Mobility Challenge, maybe you could show some modifications for those of us who have limited mobility? Otherwise, the article had a lot of good info. Report
Thank you! Report
FITNIK2020 7/27/2020
Thirty minute classes were basic... then it got iut if hand. Especially teaching back to back. Suddenly, personal training seemed very appealing, one client at a time and the instructor provides guidance. Report
FITNIK2020 7/27/2020
Kind of an interesting routine. We would do cycles of these , two or thress of 8 reps each set. For me 25 of anything is too much at once.
As for1/2 sessions, that’s where classes started. Then hi gear and superfit came in and for instructors it became brutal. Burnout or injury. Report
FITNIK2020 7/27/2020
Kind of an interesting routine. We would do cycles of these , two or thress of 8 reps each set. For me 25 of anything is too much at once.
As for1/2 sessions, that’s where classes started. Then hi gear and superfit came in and for instructors it became brutal. Burnout or injury. Report
_CYNDY55_ 7/26/2020
Thanks Report
You can almost always find ten minutes. Report
BOOKNUT52 7/2/2020
This is doable. Thanks! Report
I never thought about shopping as counting as walking time actually. It's a lot of stopping and starting Report
Thank you. Report
I’ll do it. Report
I’ll do it. Report
Thank You...………. Report
Take 10. It is amazing how often you do more. Report
thanks Report
Thank you for sharing. Good article! Report
I like this article. I beak my walks up into 3 and 4 a day. This gives me time to get one in on my lunch hour when working, etc. One early in the morning when I get up and at least one later in the afternoon when Hubby gets in from work. Report
Loved this article it made so much sense to me on how to improve my workouts Report
Great ideas. Report
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
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
Grin! My workouts are typically 50minutes to allow for arrival and departure time. Ha! Report
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
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
Thank you. Report
Thank you. Report
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
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
I agree! SOMETHING is always better than NOTHING! Report
thanks Report
I try to walk 10 minutes 3 times a day! Report
But there’s nothing wrong with the “power hour” Report
Gotta do the hard work Report
Thanks for the info Report
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
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
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