Why Long Workouts Aren't Always Better

Fitting in the recommended amount of daily exercise can feel difficult and overwhelming, and balancing obligations may make it impractical to exercise for longer periods without sacrificing family time or work responsibilities. If you've made it a goal to put your health first but are crunched for time, you'll be happy to know that research shows longer workouts aren't necessarily better than shorter ones. In fact, several short workouts that are done at higher intensity can actually be more beneficial than longer, less strenuous exercise.

One of the biggest factors that cause people to skip workouts is time. Exercising for long stretches seems like it should get you the best results. After all, you're burning calories and building muscle and endurance. But if you're working out for 60 minutes straight, chances are you're not performing at a high level that entire time. Multiple scientific studies have shown that short bursts of medium- to high-intensity activity improves metabolic health (via Verywell Fit). Keep in mind, however, that you can't just do a few shorter workouts and call it a day. Your total weekly exercise still needs to add up to the 150-minute minimum recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to Livestrong.

Trying mixing up the length of your workouts

A study out of McMaster University in Canada showed that shorter sprint interval training was just as effective as traditional endurance training in increasing cardiorespiratory fitness (via PLOS One). The sprinters exercised for a total of 30 minutes per week, while the traditional endurance trainers worked out for the recommended 150 minutes per week — and both groups experienced similar benefits. Because of the small number of participants in the trial, more research needs to be done to explore the benefits of short interval training. But the results are promising, especially since most people do not get the recommended amount of weekly exercise.

If you're still not convinced that you'll see the same benefits from shorter, burst-like workouts, then experts recommend mixing up your longer workouts with five- to ten-minute high-intensity sessions. Doing compound exercises that focus on multiple large muscle groups can be especially beneficial (via Livestrong). Incorporating weights into your exercises can also up your metabolic intensity. And however long you choose to spend on a particular workout, make sure you're doing it safely, and remember that any exercise is better than none.