Greenwood Health Kick: Which Is Better – The Short or Long Workout Session?

I was done with my “CrossFit”-type workout session. I know what CrossFit means now. My burning thighs and calves are pretty ‘cross’ and my aching biceps and shoulders are throwing a ‘fit.’

Wow, that was fun—exhausting and exhilarating all in a short period. However, is it helping me improve my fitness? I can’t be burning as many calories, comparatively to the longer workouts, can I?

So what is better? The short 20- to 25-minute workout or the longer 60- to 90-minute workout? I have always felt that I was not getting an adequate workout unless I did the longer sessions. So, longer workout sessions are better, right?
Well, as it turns out, NO. Unless your goal is to run a marathon or participate in a long endurance activity, then a longer workout will be the best for you. Other than that, a short workout program can fit into your busy life and give significant results.

Studies are showing that shorter workout sessions are just as effective as longer sessions, and may have more benefits and better results. This is a huge paradigm shift for me. Nevertheless, when I converted to the short high-intensity exercise programs, I was amazed at the quick response I was achieving. I had better muscle tone, definition and endurance than I ever had before, in half the time.

Don’t let me scare you off and think you have to get “Insane” with Shawn T’s workout program to get fit. There are two ways of approaching the short workout: the modest-pace, and the high intensity pace. The one you choose depends on your ability and the fitness goals you want to meet.

The short modest-pace workout is engaging in 10 minutes of regular exercise, 3 times a day, 4-5 times a week. These 10-minute sessions can all be one type of exercise, such as walking or jogging three times a day, or a variety of exercises. For example, one 10-minute session is walking, another 10-minute session is swimming and the last 10-minute session of the day is rotating leg lunges/squats/push-ups. Just do anything that will get your heart rate up.

Researchers have looked at the shorter 10-minute workout sessions, 3 times a day verses the continuous 30-minute session, each group exercised at a moderate intensity, and they found both groups had the same benefits. The two groups improved on strength, muscle tone, mood, weight loss, blood pressure and cholesterol. Although the 30 minutes broken down into 10-minute sessions maintained a slightly lower mean blood pressure and mild increase in weight loss, they tended to rate feeling less stressed and more energetic throughout the day than the continuous 30-minute exercise group.

Pondering this, it does make sense that frequent activity sprinkled throughout the day would have more improvements in the subjects. Exercise releases all sorts of chemicals in the brain and body that help with stress, suppress food cravings and lower blood pressure. So giving yourself a quick “therapeutic boost” of all-natural chemicals during the course of the day can keep you more balanced and your hand out of the cookie jar.

This is great news for a person who has limited time to work out, or who has a difficult time getting through 30 minutes of continuous exercise. The idea of just 10 minutes three times a day seems time-wise, more physically and psychologically doable than exercising for 30 to 60 minutes. Let’s see…10 minutes of cardio before we go to work, 10 minutes upper body strength when we get home and 10 minutes of legs and abdominal in the evening or a brisk walk, run, or jump rope. Do this four to five times a week and you’ve got it all wrapped up. Not so painful, right?

Now for those who want a more dramatic response in body composition, the 20- to 25-minute high-intense-pace or high intensity interval training (HIIT) gets the blue ribbon over the lower-intensity 60- to 90-minute workout. This is where quality wins over quantity. Studies have shown the 20-25 minute fast-pace interval training is more efficient in improving body contouring, strength, metabolism and weight loss than the lower-intensity 60- to 90-minute workout. The American Council of Exercise recognizes the above benefits of the short higher-intensity exercise over the longer, lower-intensity workouts.

Exercise experts have been aware of this and have been developing HIIT exercise programs such as Insanity, Tabata, CrossFit, and TurboFire with shorter time frames (20-25 minutes) that give excellent total body fitness results.

Consumer videos such as “Insanity” or P90X are great workout programs that can be done at home. Just get ready to do many burpees and jump squats. You can adapt the HIIT concept with running, spinning, elliptical, or stairs. You just need a good timer.

For example: increase speed or sprint for one minute then slow down the pace for four to five minutes, then increase again and repeat until 20-25 minutes is finished. Another example is the ‘beloved’ wind sprints: try sprinting ten 100- to 400-meter dashes with a one-minute rest period in-between sprints.

There are several HIIT websites ( and and YouTube programs you can access for ideas. A variety of interval timing apps will keep you on task. It is fun to work out in a group and several gyms are offering HIIT such as Tabata and Insanity or you can join a CrossFit center. A few such places are:

Greenwood City Center
300 South Madison Avenue
Greenwood, IN 46142
Insanity class:
Tues.: 6:30 a.m., Fri.: 8 a.m.
Session Fee: (4 classes)
$16/Members, $20/Residents,
$24/Non-residents, Daily Fee: $7

CrossFit Sworn
1052 Greenwood Springs Blvd.
Suite C, Greenwood

Indy South CrossFit
457 Knights Drive, Greenwood
The Gathering Place
1495 W Main Street, Greenwood
HIIT: Sat.: 9:30 a.m.

Baxter YMCA
7900 S. Shelby Street, Indianapolis
HIIT class: Mon.: 7:15 – 8:15 a.m., 8:30 – 9:25 a.m.
Insanity class: Mon.: 6:10 – 7 p.m.
Boot camp: inquire about days and times

Mt. Pleasant Community Life Center
407 N. Bluff Rd. Greenwood
Tabata Boot Camp: Mon., Wed., Fri.: 5:15 a.m., 6 a.m.

Take-home points:

1) If you are looking for general improvement in your energy, health and fitness, both the short 10-minute workout three times a day and the longer 30-minute continuous workout have the same general health and fitness benefits.
2) Short 10-minute workouts, three times a day, provide slightly better results with blood pressure, weight loss and sense of well-being.
3) Shorter workouts that are intense (HIIT) are more efficient in improving body contouring, strength, metabolism and weight loss.
4) Shorter workouts take less time, so you are more likely to do them and stick with the regimen. Even doing five minutes a few times a day can help with general fitness.
5) Shorter workouts can help you break out of your mundane routine.
6) Shorter workouts are better for achieving your fitness goals unless you are training for a long-distance activity such as a marathon.

The shorter workout wins! Now you cannot make an excuse that you don’t have the time, because you only need 10 minutes to make a difference in living a healthier, longer, happier life!

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