I got asked a great question today about the science behind shorter workouts.
Most people are used to equating exercise with long, boring gym sessions that last at least an hour or more. And I’m no stranger to this mindset—I used to be a part of this “long workouts are better camp” too, back in the days when I’d force myself to run forever followed by 20 minutes or more of abs-focused training or something similar. I absolutely hated it, but I did it anyway because I thought that spending more time exercising was the only way to get into good shape.
But just because you’re used to something being one way doesn’t mean you should actually accept that’s how it has to be.
Because here’s the truth: longer workouts aren’t necessarily better.
In fact, longer workouts can actually be less effective than shorter ones for a lot of reasons. And your long workouts may be the actual reason you’re not in the incredible shape you want to be in, or can’t seem to keep a consistent workout schedule.
Here’s why shorter workouts are better than longer ones:
High-intensity training in short bursts provides a natural boost to human growth hormone production, which is essential for optimal health. It has also been shown to increase fat loss and muscle growth as well as significantly improve insulin sensitivity.
Research has shown that just 20 minutes of high intensity training, two to three times per week, can even lead to better results than slow and steady workouts performed five times a week.
The key factor is that damage can set in when intensely exercising for periods of an hour or more at a time. Your heart is designed to work hard – and will be strengthened by doing so, but it is only designed to work this way intermittently and for shorter periods.
Many health experts feel that short bursts of high intensity exercise are the most effective and efficient form of exercise. It appears that this type of exercise offers unique health benefits that are not derived from regular aerobic exercise.
Moderate Intensity, Longer Workouts-
The evidence that quick and hard produces optimal results is rather overwhelming, but if you enjoy going out for a long, leisurely run there is no reason to stop doing so. Just remember to run or workout at a “conversational pace.”
For many, long, slow runs are an excellent way to reduce emotional and mental stress, however, running too many days in a row puts a great deal of pressure on bones and joints, especially if you are running on a solid surface such as concrete., If possible, alternate long runs with other forms of exercise such as biking, swimming, yoga, pilates, high intensity or resistance training. Varying your routine will keep all muscle groups toned and give your knees, lower back and ankles a chance to recover.
The Bottom Line
Both low and high intensity exercise have benefits, although high intensity workouts have been shown to produce faster results. If you enjoy longer, slower workouts consider switching things up a day or two out of the week.
The most important thing is to get out and exercise!