You’re pressed for time, and you only have 30 minutes to work out. Will you get more benefit if you exercise for 30 minutes straight or if you break it up into three 10-minute sessions?
At one time, experts thought you needed to work out for periods of 20 minutes or more to benefit from exercise, but recent research suggests that you may get the same or greater benefits if you divide your workout into shorter sessions. That’s good news for time-strapped people who want to stay in shape.
Will You Burn More Fat if You Break Up Your Workout?
If fat-burning is your goal, doing your workout in more than one session may give you an advantage. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, you’ll burn more fat if you stop and rest between workout sessions.
Researchers divided a group of healthy, young men into three groups. One group did a single 60-minute exercise session. A second group did two 30-minute exercise sessions and stopped to rest for 20 minutes in-between. A third group only rested for 60 minutes.
When they drew blood from these men, they found those who did the two shorter exercise sessions with a rest in-between had higher levels of free fatty acids in their bloodstream after their workout than the other two groups. This suggests that more fat was mobilized. In this study, two shorter exercise sessions increased the mobilization of fat from fat stores better than a single exercise session did.
Ten Minute Exercise Sessions Have Benefits Too
Exercise sessions as short as 10-minutes can have benefits. In a study published in The Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared the effects of three 10-minute exercise sessions or two 15-minute ones to a single 30-minute session. Participants worked out an average of 4 days a week at 75% of their heart rate reserve and followed a calorie-restricted diet.
At the end of 3 months, all three groups lost similar amounts of weight and body fat and improved their aerobic capacity. This is consistent with other recent research showing that brief exercise sessions done multiple times during the day are just as effective as a single, longer session.
Intermittent, short exercise sessions are also effective for reducing triglyceride levels and fats in the blood that increase the risk of heart disease. They also improve insulin sensitivity.
The Benefits of Short Exercise Sessions
Breaking a workout up into shorter sessions reduces boredom. Plus, you may push yourself harder when you’re only exercising for a short period of time. Three 10-minute sessions where you max out the intensity will give you more benefits than a single session 30-minute session where you move at a moderate pace. Short, higher intensity give more of an after-burn effect, so you’ll burn more calories after your workout is over. Exercise intensity is ultimately more important than exercise duration when it comes to improving heart health too.
The Bottom Line?
If you don’t have time to do 30-minutes of exercise in a single session, break up your workout into shorter sessions, and do them several times throughout the day. You’ll still get benefits, and you may burn away more fat this way. Almost everyone can find 10-minutes to work out, so now there are no excuses not to exercise.
Journal of Applied Physiology. 2007: 2158-64.
JACN. “Effects of Long Versus Short Bout Exercise on Fitness and Weight Loss in Overweight Females”