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Fit Fridays with Holly Lowe Jones: The benefits of shorter workouts

Holly Lowe Jones

Photo credit: Powell Photography courtesy of

“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” – Stephen R. Covey

With the arrival of the colder months, I find myself skipping workouts more frequently. Add on work, family and holiday demands and it’s been way too easy to excuse myself from my usual exercise regimen.

However, I do always manage to sneak in a couple hours of fitness activity a week, no matter how busy I am. Sometimes, I wonder if my short sessions are even worth it, so I decided to refresh my memory and do some research. Just as I thought, working out for just 15 minutes, on most days of the week, can have significant benefits.

According to a feature on ABC News, the more overweight and out of shape you are, the greater the benefit will be. Cardiovascular (heart healthy) fitness can improve in just a few weeks of short bouts of exercise, as long as the intensity level is high enough. This can be really encouraging for someone just starting out, who fatigues after the first few minutes of exercise.

Although experts recommend a minimum of 30 continuous minutes of moderate to high-intensity activity five times per week, health benefits can be achieved in less than half of that. An article in the New York Times reported that “even a single minute of intense exercise, embedded within an otherwise easy 10-minute workout can improve fitness and health.”

If you’re like 80 percent of Americans who are reportedly too busy to meet the minimum exercise requirements for optimal health, you’re fooling yourself. Being crunched for time is literally and scientifically not an excuse. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has found that in order to maintain (or even lose) weight and improve health and fitness, you can get away with just 75 minutes of (vigorous) activity per week. That’s only 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Of course, if you have more time, even better. Be sure to include at least 2 sessions of strength training, and work up to 5 hours of moderate exercise per week, or 2.5 hours of high intensity movement.

Things to remember: Interval training equals vigorous training. You want to do at least 30 seconds of (very uncomfortable, between 7 and 9 on the RPE Scale) of high-intensity training, interspersed with three to four minutes of recovery (low to moderate effort). In as little as three weeks, you can see improvements in cardiovascular capacity, oxygen utilization, energy, and blood sugar levels. Just remember, the shorter the length of the workout, the harder your output should be. Instead of blaming your busy schedule for your inactive and out-of-shape lifestyle, focus on getting the best fitness and health return on your exercise investment.

Wishing you health and happiness,


Holly Lowe Jones is a media professional, certified fitness and nutrition expert, and personal trainer (ISSA). A member of the National Association for Health and Fitness, Jones is also a seasoned triathlete who competes in her spare time.

For more information, please visit her website


Instagram and Twitter: HollyLoweJones