Can you get an effective workout in 30 minutes?

Jun 06, 2014

By Jamie Richard, Private Trainer/Boxing Coach at Sports Club/LA - Chestnut Hill

Is it actually possible to turn 30 minutes into a viable and effective workout? The answer is yes via a program comprised of cardiovascular and basic strength training exercises. It’s as simple as remembering these principles:


  1. 1. The level of intensity determines your workout’s effectiveness. No matter how long your workout is, its intensity level is what matters. This principle is 10 times more relevant in a 30-minute session than a 90-minute session. But when performed at the correct intensity, the benefits of a 30-minute session outweigh those of a low-intensity session that’s three times longer in duration.


  2. 2. Focus on strength. In the 30 minutes, plan to spend 20 minutes performing strength-based exercises followed by 10 minutes of cardio. In doing so, avoid hardcore body-building type routines where the amount of muscle load requires more than a day to recover. Remember, you may only have half an hour, but you’ll want to be doing it at least five times a week. Look for strengthening routines with exercises that work multiple muscle groups in a single rep, such as wood chop/lunges or a single leg bridge with triceps press.


  3. 3. Choose one cardio exercise. In the 10-minute cardio portion, choose a single cardio-based activity because there’s not enough time to shuffle around to different machines. Try to maximize the benefit of the exercise by sustaining a moderate intensity level for the 10 minutes. A great way to do this is to utilize intervals: Alternate between moderate and high interval intensities every 30 seconds (total of 20 intervals = 10 minutes). With limited time resources, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) will yield the greatest return on your investment. HIIT facilitates change at a metabolic level that may enable you to use more fat as fuel under a variety of conditions. As a result, it’ll improve your endurance and fat-burning potential.


You may be wondering if 30 minutes of just cardio or strength training alone can be more beneficial than a combination of the two. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has identified that regular cardiovascular activity for 30 minutes at a moderate level “almost every day” will reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The NIH recommends 60 minutes of moderate activity to attain weight loss. The great thing is that we get practically all (if not more) of this activity level just performing movement in our daily tasks.

Now that you know the benefits of a solid 30-minute workout, the question isn’t can you afford to spend 30 healthy minutes working out? Instead, it’s how can you afford not to?