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Fitness Blitz: The 30-Minute Workout

Think you don't have time to work out? A 30-minute workout could change your mind.
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

What if being too busy to work out was no longer an excuse? What if you could get an effective workout in 30 minutes a day? Think about it: 30 minutes. That's just half an episode of Gray's Anatomy. And an effective 30-minute workout is no pipe dream, says personal trainer Jonathan Ross.

"Everyone thinks that if they don't have an hour, than it's not worth it," says Ross, owner of Aion Fitness in Bowie, Md. "If you need an hour, think about how you feel at 59 minutes and 59 seconds. Then wait a second. Does something magical happen at 60 minutes?"

The answer, of course, is "no".

"Our bodies are responsive to exercise on a continuum, not on a time-based threshold," says Ross, the American Council on Exercise's 2006 Personal Trainer of the Year. "An effective workout can be had in any amount of time, given how you manipulate the variables of the workout."

Fitness expert Petra Kolber agrees.

"Doing something is better than doing nothing," says Kolber, a spokesman for the IDEA Health and Fitness Association and a contributing editor for Health magazine. "Thirty minutes is a realistic time frame for us to take out of our day to take care of ourselves."

What Makes Up a 30-Minute Workout?

To maximize the benefits, your 30-minute workout should consist of both resistance training and cardiovascular training, Ross says.

Ross likes to make a workout two-thirds resistance training and one-third cardiovascular training. In a 30-minute workout, that's 20 minutes of resistance and 10 minutes of cardio. Yes, just 10 minutes. But 10 strong minutes, he says.

"People don't need more time, they just need more intensity," he says. "The body responds more to intensity than it does to the duration of a workout."

A more intense workout burns more calories per minute, and will result in a much stronger post-exercise reaction, says Ross. In essence, he says, when you push the intensity, you traumatize the body (but in a good way).

"The metabolic system sends a message that it needs to make this person a lean, mean, fighting machine," he says.

For resistance training, Ross and Kolber say the important thing is to cover the whole body. Kolber opts for covering many major muscle groups at once, by combining lower- and upper-body exercises. Ross establishes an exercise "template" targeting specific types of movement so that he covers all the major muscle groups and can vary the actual exercises.

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