Several Short Workouts or One Long One: Is One Better Than the Other?

Several Short Workouts or One Long One: Is One Better Than the Other?When you lead a busy life, you do your workouts when you can. That’s why exercising at home is so convenient. Load an exercise DVD in your player and you’re ready for a sweat session before work, after work – any time. Plus, you can always stop the DVD if you’re short on time and continue your workout later. When you do several short workouts as opposed to a longer one, are you getting the full benefits that exercise offers?

If you’re time strapped, there’s good news. Recent research shows you can get the benefits of exercise from sessions as short as 10 minutes. In fact, there are advantages to doing two or three shorter workouts spread over the day rather than one long one.

Is More Than One Daily Workout Better?

In a study carried out in Beijing, researchers asked a group of healthy men to pedal a stationary bike on some days and rest on others. Some of the participants pedaled for a full 30 minutes while others rode for 15 minutes and rested 20 minutes before riding for another 15 minutes. The researchers closely monitored their blood flow as they exercised.

As expected, blood vessels opened wider and blood flow improved when the men exercised, but the increase in blood flow was sustained longer when the men did two shorter sessions rather than a single longer one. One of the benefits of aerobic exercise is blood vessels become more flexible. The vessels stayed flexible longer in men who did two exercise sessions as opposed to one. This bodes well for heart and blood vessel health.

Single versus Multiple Aerobic Sessions: Which is Better for Building Endurance?

One of the benefits of aerobic exercise is it builds endurance. You may have heard you need to work out at an intensity of 50% of your V02 max or greater for at least 20 minutes to build cardiovascular endurance. Recent studies dispute this idea.

In a study carried out in Taiwan, researchers asked participants to jog on a treadmill regularly for 2 months. Some jogged for thirty minutes in a single session while others did three ten-minute sessions spaced over the day. In this study, it didn’t seem to matter which they did, both experienced similar improvements in endurance.

Other Advantages to Doing Multiple Workouts

It’s not uncommon for people to exercise for an hour in the morning and then sit around for the rest of the day. Research shows that long periods of sitting increase mortality even if you do a structured workout for an hour or more daily. In other words, those hour exercise sessions don’t compensate for a sedentary lifestyle.

What happens when you plop down in a chair for an hour or more without getting up? When you sit for long periods of time, insulin sensitivity goes down and a hormone called lipoprotein lipase doesn’t clear circulating lipids from your bloodstream as quickly. This puts you at greater risk for heart disease. Your metabolism goes into hibernation too. Doing 10-minute workouts throughout the day helps to avoid metabolic hibernation and its ill effects on your body – and your waistline. Doing more than one workout, even if it’s only 10 minutes, keeps you moving more throughout the day.

There’s another advantage to short workouts. If you reduce the duration of a workout, you can exercise more intensely. There’s lots of research showing that intensity is more important than exercise duration when it comes to fat-burning and improvements in cardiovascular fitness. Three 10-minute intense workouts may offer more benefits than 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

Some research shows that short exercise sessions help to reduce food cravings and temporarily suppresses appetite. Instead of heading to the kitchen for a snack, turn on the DVD player and do a 10-minute session, like my new X10 workouts to quiet your cravings.

How to Do Multiple Workouts

Begin your morning by doing 10 to 15 minutes of a high-intensity DVD to wake up and rev up your metabolism. If you work a job, take a fast walk at lunch. When you get home, do the rest of your exercise DVD. You can also switch to a resistance training DVD in the afternoon on some days.

Some people feel more energetic when they work out more than once during the day rather than squeezing all their exercise into a single workout. If you do a lot of sitting on your job, multiple workouts may be better for your health.

The Bottom Line?

Choose an exercise schedule that works for you but don’t assume you won’t get the same benefits if you break up your workout into several shorter sessions. You may enjoy greater benefits. The most important thing is to find what works for you – and what you’ll stick with.

References:

NY Times Blog. “3 Short Workouts or 1 Long One?”

PLOS One. “Low- and High-Volume of Intensive Endurance Training Significantly Improves Maximal Oxygen Uptake after 10-Weeks of Training in Healthy Men”

 

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