Short workouts more often vs long workouts less often, which is most effective assuming the diet in each is the same? We asked several fitness experts for their opinion.
There are so many online fitness programs that consist of either short 10-15 minute workouts 5-7 times per week or 30-60 minute workouts 2-3 times per week. Most of us are busy mums so how do we know which option to choose to make best use of our limited time?
And can the same results be achieved by exercising 10 mins day every day vs 30 minutes 3 times a week? We asked some of our favourite fitness professionals for their advice… here’s what they have to say.
Sandy Sklar – Pre/Postnatal CPT
Super fit mom Sandy is a pre/postnatal CPT and owner of Prescriptive Fitness in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is mom to 5 children (3 step children).
Here is Sandy’s advice…
To exercise 10 minutes a day or 30 minutes 3 X a week? I don’t believe there is one right answer. That ‘one fits all, magical fitness program’ just doesn’t exist.
Short workouts several times a week can be just as beneficial as three longer workouts, 3 X a week. Your fitness goals and how much time you can put aside for exercise, can effect your daily workout routine. Some people may not have time to fit in a 30-60 minute training session a day. Especially busy moms! So, if you only have 10 minutes, make the most of it! Your results are effected by the effort you put into each session.
“if you only have 10 minutes, make the most of it!”
I think one of the best ways to maximize your workouts no matter how much time you have, is by incorporating HIIT (high intensity interval training). Quick bursts of intense, vigorous exercise followed by short periods of active or complete rest. These workouts increase your aerobic and anaerobic endurance, burning more calories and fat in less time. It’s quick, convenient and you can do it anywhere!
“it’s not about how long you exercised, it’s about how much effort you put into it.”
At the end of the day, it’s not about how long you exercised, it’s about how much effort you put into it. You can benefit from every minute of exercise no matter what the duration is. And remember, any exercise is better than no exercise!
Great advice thank you Sandy!
Nadine Muller – Certified PT & Advanced Nutrition
Nadine, from Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, is a busy lady. Not only is she mum to 18 month old Madden but she’s a certified personal trainer, military registered nurse, fitness blogger and sponsored athlete.
Here is Nadine’s advice…
Whilst as mentioned if diet should remain the same in both groups, what it truly comes down to whether one is more effective than the other is the type of activity and intensity level.
“within 15 minutes a significant amount of calories can be burned…”
Being a high intensity interval training (HIIT) coach I know that within 15 minutes a significant amount of calories can be burned. Obviously though should a client extend that time to 30 minutes or beyond it obviously maximises that calorie expenditure yet again. For e.g. tabata style HIIT which comprises of 20 seconds WORK time with 10 seconds REST and repeating with that time frame would mean an effective workout, even in as little as 15 minutes.
Whilst calorie expenditures vary from person to person any type of physical activity whether it be 15 minutes as oppose to 30 minutes is of benefit to anybody. I believe when we look at the population group of mums, whether it be working mums, stay-at-home mums, first time mums, single mums, whatever the case may be, we need to remember that whilst we all have the same 24 hours in a day, everybody’s individual circumstances are indeed different. If that means one mum can set aside 30 minutes of continuous exercise per day then great and may benefit more, but if another mum needs to break it down to a shorter time frames but spanned over more days then likewise, so be it.
“You don’t have to spend endless hours exercising to see results.”
I always tell my clients to try not to adopt the ‘ALL OR NOTHING’ approach, whilst it would be great to get 30+ minutes of continuous exercise in everyday, sometimes it just won’t happen and I always urge them to not feel discouraged if it doesn’t. Plus scientific evidence supports that you don’t have to spend endless hours exercising to see results. Even if you can just commit 15 minutes of exercise, you will feel all the more better for it. If you can’t get the 30+ minutes altogether, then break up the exercise over the entire day.
“Little bursts of activities do add up over the course of the day!”
Incidental exercise can happen just about anywhere (think squats at the kitchen sink, calf raises in the shower, lunges in front of the TV during ad breaks – virtually anywhere, anytime!) the little bursts of activities do add up over the course of the day! Think about the unallocated moments of time, those 30-minute blocks spent on Facebook, Instagram, checking emails, reading blogs (haha) etc. Pay attention to the true quality and quantity of your time and highlight which activities you potentially could subtract from e.g. calling your best friend from the lounge verse hitting the pavement with bub and pram in tow whilst talking on the phone.
We all know that motherhood comes with its fair share of challenges so on those days where it feels like nothing is going your way, just accept any spare time that you do have to exercise and make the most of it!!
Thank you so much Nadine… I’m sure the mums and mum-to-be’s reading this article will be inspired by your advice.
Want to know how Nadine fits everything into a day? Read her ‘a day in the life of’ interview here. You can also read our feature interview with Nadine here. And follow Nadine on Instagram here to be inspired on a daily basis.
Ainsley Rodriguez – Fitness Model & Personal Trainer
Fitness model and personal trainer Ainsley Rodriguez from Miami, Florida may not be a mother just yet but there’s no denying she’s well qualified to give us her opinion on which workout is most effective, short vs long.
Here is Ainsley’s advice…
HIIT (high intensity interval training) vs LISS Cardio (low intensity steady state). Which is best?
High intensity is usually done for no more than 20 mins and it consists of bursts of 110% max effort followed by short rest periods. LISS is your typical wanna-kill-yourself-hour-on-a-treadmill-blow-your-brains-out͛ cardio. A lot of people get addicted to steady state cardio because they get addicted to the number they see on the machine when they’re done. They see 600 calories burned on an elliptical after an hour and they think how in the world could I burn that in less than 20 mins?
“They see 600 calories burned on an elliptical after an hour and they think how in the world could I burn that in less than 20 mins?”
You might be surprised to know that you actually burn more at the END of the day with HIIT than you do with LISS which is one of the reasons I am such a huge advocate of it. Is there a time and place for both? Yes, of course. HIIT, again, involves full out effort. Ideally sprinting is a great way to do this but you can do it on any machine at the gym. You can up the resistance on the elliptical or increase the pace and level of the stair master. There are SO many different ways to do it. BUT because of this, I wouldn’t necessarily have someone who’s a fresh beginner go out and try to start sprinting on their first day and risk injuring themselves. You’ll want to take it slow at first but for the most part HIIT is superior to LISS. Side from the fat burning benefits HIIT saves you time! I personally don’t have 2-3 hours to spend in the gym and I’m sure you don’t either!
“Side from the fat burning benefits HIIT saves you time!”
Another downfall to steady state cardio is that your body adapts and plateaus with it. What does that mean? Ok so let’s say you’re just starting out and want to lose weight so you decide you’ll start with 30 mins on the treadmill. You start dropping weight, you get excited and then you plateau. At that point you might decide the solution is upping your cardio to an hour. You start dropping again and then guess what…you stop and then again increase your cardio now to an hour and half, and then 2 hours…get the picture? This is the infamous thing that happens with most weight loss programs. You’re given a plan where you’re barely eating and doing a ton of cardio and all your body does is keep adjusting and adjusting to less food and more cardio until you just can’t lose weight no matter what you try.
“You can easily drop body fat and gain muscle and the scale might not budge…”
I care about LONG term results when it comes to my clients and studies show that body composition and actual fat loss from HIIT is greater than LISS. Body composition takes into account lean muscle mass and weight is just a number on the scale that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. You can easily drop body fat and gain muscle and the scale might not budge but you still lost body fat which is what we care about. You can also weigh less but have a higher percentage of body fat. Why do we want more lean muscle mass? Because then we can eat more and everyone wants to eat more hahah! No but seriously, having more lean mass will rev up your metabolism and increase oxidative capacity. Your cells have these energy producing units called mitochondria and this where ATP or energy is made and fat is burned. So in short. More mitochondria = more oxidative capacity = more fat loss burned. If I haven’t convinced you, look at a runners body and compare it to a sprinters. A sprinters body is much more muscular than a runners. This is NO offence to runners and if you enjoy running go for it! I care about you staying active more than anything else! In short, put in the effort and go through the treacherous 110% max effort and really push yourselves, get it done and out of the way in a short amount of time and then have the rest of the day to do whatever it is that you want to do! You don’t need to do this everyday either 3 days of HIIT cardio/week is great for anyone trying to lean down!
This article talks about exercise. But what about diet? What should you be eating if you’re a mum wanting to get back in shape? How should your diet differ if you’re breastfeeding? We’ll cover these questions and more in our next tips & advice article coming soon.
Do you have an opinion on which is most effective, shorter, more intense workouts or longer endurance workouts? We’d love to know. Leave a comment further down or get in touch with us if you’d like to contribute to this article.