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Why a short workout can be better than a long session

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Before you allow the headline to entice you into cutting down your exercise routine, be aware that quicker workouts, although they can achieve the same results as a long workout session, don’t necessarily mean easier workouts.

Shorter workouts, when done in high intensity, can have the same effect as a longer mid-level session. The hugely popular HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is one such routine, which involves alternating short explosive bursts and quick cool-down periods in your workouts.

losing inches vs losing weightPhoto: Shutterstock 

A recent study indicated that one minute of arduous exercise can be comparable in its physiological effects to 45 minutes of gentler exertion.  In fact, there’s plenty of research that suggests shorter, high intensity workouts can yield greater results than slow and steady conventional training.

According to personal trainer Jilian Michaels, your intensity counts more than the length of your workout, and your workouts should never be longer than two hours.

No more ‘I don’t have time’ excuses

Ever used the excuse that you are ‘too busy’ to go to the gym? Studies have shown that interval training can help you burn more fat and increase fitness levels after just 15 to 20 minutes of working out, so that’s no longer a valid reason to avoid exercise.

Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health also showed that short bouts of intense exercise shaved inches off the hips and waistline as well as helped to lower blood pressure. It can also boost both short term and long-term exercise capacity.

American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal concludes, “A simple, fast, high-intensity workout — finished in as little as seven minutes — will produce many of the same benefits as a good run and trip to the weight room.”

So no more excuses, because you can certainly spare seven minutes in your day to exercise.

It normalises your appetite

When you engage in a long workout session, your appetite will likely grow in order to make up for all the energy lost. Some people adopt the “I deserve this” mind set, which would set you back in achieving your fitness goals simply by eating a doughnut.

By breaking your exercise down into multiple short sessions, you won’t hit energy slumps in that the way. Even though you are exercising to your maximum capacity during these HIIT sessions, your body does not get that same after-exercise hunger pang you normally do after a really long run or weight session.

losing inches vs losing weightPhoto: Shutterstock 

Fastest results

Short but tough HIIT workouts can boost your metabolism, raise your body’s fat-burning power and burn more calories in less time. Recent studies have shown that HIIT can improve your fitness level in as little as two weeks, and can give you the same cardiovascular and muscular benefits as steady training achieved in half to one-third the amount of time.

A study published in PLOS One got three groups of men to work out  - one group to remain as the control and change nothing about their current routines, the second to do a typical endurance routine, and the third to do interval training.

The endurance group would ride on the stationary bicycle for 45 minutes at a moderate pace each session. The interval group would cycle as fast as they can for 20 seconds, then ride slowly for two minutes, and repeat this interval three times. Their session only lasted 10 minutes.

After 12 weeks of training, scientists found that the men in both the interval and endurance groups had virtually identical gains. Their aerobic fitness, muscles and blood sugar control had improved, and their endurance had increased by nearly 20 percent.

 losing inches vs losing weightPhoto: Shutterstock

The only difference was that the endurance group had ridden for a total of 27 hours, while the interval group had only ridden for six hours – with only 36 minutes of that time being strenuous.

Neither approach to exercise was, however, superior to the other, except that one was much shorter.

Of course, choosing between interval and endurance fitness routines also depends on who you are and why you exercise.  Athletes must work on anaerobic and aerobic fitness, so they can’t afford to give up on endurance exercise, but if you’re simply trying to look and feel fit, a regular routine involving interval training might be good enough.
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