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Why you may need to exercise less

Are short workouts effective? Sometimes less is more.

Fitness is, of course, really important. However you may actually be spending far too much time trying to get fit – much more than you need to. When you do it right, your workouts can be much more effective and more time efficient to boot. 

Generally speaking, people think longer is better. Quantity over quality. Hours are spent at the gym, miles spent running, shortly followed by ab crunches and squats, all in the name of staying in shape. People hate it. Rightly so, in my opinion. It’s draining, time consuming, and seems like a real chore. However, this isn’t the only way to stay fit. 

You don’t actually have to dedicate hours of your precious free time to exercise just because of general consensus. Longer workouts don’t always equal better workouts. 

Here’s why –

Life is hectic. Between work, commuting, family commitments, your social calendar, exercise can fall by the wayside. Lack of time is probably the most common excuse for not exercising. If your go-to training session lasts 2 hours, suddenly that gym visit is all too easy to skip. Shorter workouts are much harder to avoid using this excuse. We all have a spare 15-20 minutes we can assign to a little #selfcare in the form of exercise. 


Let’s get scientific

There’s a lot of discussion about the optimum level of exercise for the human body. Cortisol is a hormone released by your body when you’re under any sort of stress. This can be from fear, work drama, or even exercise. Cortisol breaks down stored glycogen in your body to generate a boost of energy – think flight mode. Back in ye olde days, this was necessary to flee from animal attacks, for example. Nowadays wildebeest ambushes are considerably lower, but we still have this hormonal response during exercise leading to a lot of cortisol hanging around our body.

This can actually get absorbed by the liver, but if your liver is working overtime, the excess cortisol is absorbed by an organ called the greater momentum. Never heard of it? Same. This organ sits behind your abdominal muscles, and can actually swell with cortisol, giving you a little pot bellied look. This is why it can be difficult to shift that extra podge around your midriff.

Studies have shown that when people exercise for long periods of time at a low to moderate intensity, a lot of cortisol is released for a long time with little other fat burning hormones alongside. Whereas, shorter more intense exercise routines spike your cortisol levels, but significantly less so than steady state workouts

High intensity workouts also allow other hormones to be released thanks to the fight-or-flight response, such as adrenaline. To be brief, these supplementary hormones help break down glycogen AKA fat stores, making your work out much more effective even though it’s shorter.

Hormones aside, longer exercise routines can often lead to muscle fatigue, increasing your chance of injury. Some people feel like they need to complete punishingly long workout routines in order to see results. In actual fact, if you workout right, you can see results from just 15 minutes a day.


How to get more bang for your buck?

Maximising your workout isn’t actually as hard as it sounds. Treadmill fiend? Crank up the incline to boost your training. Most machines, from treadmill to elliptical, allow you to increase incline to up to 15%. It’ll make your body work harder. Engaging your glutes, strengthening your entire leg muscles, burning more fat in the same amount of time as usual.

Be sure to ease yourself into it. Remember your form! Try not to lean forward or hold onto the handlebars for support. If you find it too difficult, wind it down a little.

Add resistance to build upon your muscle strength and overall endurance. This will make you work harder, achieving better results form your normal regime. Your resting metabolism will increase greatly thanks to adding resistance, burning more calories even after you’ve stopped exercising. 

Resistance can be anything. You can add ankle weights if you enjoy cardio, use resistance bands, or even use your own body weight. This includes lunges, squats, push ups — heard of these? Not so tricky after all. 

Of course there’s the ever so popular HIIT. High-intensity interval training, in case you didn’t know. It’s based on the idea that short and sweet bursts of exercises will have a maximum effect on your whole body.

You don’t even need equipment to do this kind of workout. Using your bodyweight, or even props like a chair or the wall you can get a total body burner. 


Don’t skip your warm up or cool down

Just because short workouts are super effective, doesn’t mean you can skip your stretching. A thorough warm up preps your body for a workout, and a solid cool down aids recovery. Miss either or both, and you won’t be performing at the top of your game. 


Still think you don’t have time to workout? Save your excuses. If you do it right, it takes no time at all. 

Which do you prefer, long or short workouts? Let us know on our Facebook page!