Less is More: Why Short Workouts Are Better Than Long Ones


I’m not crazy. I’m totally aware that when I first tell people about workouts that take only 12 minutes or so to complete, they look at me like I’ve gone nuts.

And they get even more confused when I tell them that these 12 minute workouts are actually more effective than spending an hour or more working out in a gym.

“How the hell is working out for 12 minutes better than working out for an hour?” most people ask me, puzzled and unbelieving.

See, most people are used to equating exercise with long, boring gym sessions that last at least an hour or more. And I’m no stranger to this mindset—I used to be a part of this “long workouts are better camp” too, back in the days when I’d force myself to run for miles and miles, followed by 20 minutes or more of abs-focused training or something similar. I absolutely hated it, but I did it anyway because I thought that spending more time exercising was the only way to get into good shape.

But just because you’re used to something being one way doesn’t mean you should actually accept that’s how it has to be.

Because here’s the truth: longer workouts aren’t necessarily better.

In fact, longer workouts can actually be less effective than shorter ones for a lot of reasons. And your long workouts may be the actual reason you’re not in the incredible shape you want to be in, or can’t seem to keep a consistent workout schedule.

Here’s why shorter workouts are better than longer ones:

They make the excuse “I don’t have time” moot

When you know you’ll be spending an hour or two working out, you’re much more likely to skip your workout altogether when life gets busy. And it makes sense—an hour is a long time to commit to when you’ve got a million other things going on.

But with short, intense interval workouts, that excuse goes out the window. Because everyone has an extra 12 or 15 minutes a day.

Don’t agree? Just think about all the things you currently waste time on now… watching reality TV shows, taking really long showers, sleeping an extra 15 or 30 minutes in the morning. No matter how busy your days are, you can easily shave off a few minutes here and there, and come up with enough time to get a 12 minute workout in.

Doing short, tough HIIT workouts make it way more likely you’ll actually stick to your workout schedule for the long haul.

They normalize your appetite

When you work out for hours upon end, not only will your appetite grow to be enormous in order to make up for all the energy lost during your workout, you’ll also put yourself at risk for “I deserve this” mode, which can send your weight loss goals plummeting backwards.

During my time as a gym-based personal trainer, I can’t tell you how many times I saw people do cardio and/or weights for an hour or more in the gym, then immediately go across the street to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts and scarf down a giant-sized sugary drink and a giant pastry (or two!). All because they thought they worked hard, were ravenous, and felt they deserved a treat afterwards.

But sadly, this “reward” would nearly always result in a weight loss plateau, or worse, actual weight gain.

Yet HIIT is different. Even though you have to work as hard as humanly possible during high intensity interval training workouts, since you’re not actually working out for a huge amount of time, you don’t get that same “feed me now” feeling you’d get after a really long run or weights session.

And science confirms it: recent studies have shown that HIIT may actually suppress your appetite—while steady state cardio can actually increase it.

So train for shorter amounts of time, and you may just be less hungry overall.

They show results faster

Realize that beach season is officially here, but don’t quite feel comfortable in a bathing suit yet? If you want to get the fastest results possible, you won’t go for a few steady jogs a week—you’ll do intervals instead.

Recent studies have shown that HIIT can improve your fitness level in as little as two weeks, and can give you the same cardiovascular and muscular benefits as steady state cardio in half to one-third the amount of time.

Short but tough HIIT workouts can also boost your metabolism, raise your body’s fat burning power and burn more calories in way less time.

They get you in better shape in less time

Lets say you decide you want to train for a marathon, because for some reason, that sounds fun to you (sorry, I know I’m biased, but I just have never liked long runs).

You’d have a choice: you could either go for a million long runs (ok, not literally) to prepare for your race, putting yourself at risk for overtraining or injury, or you could incorporate lots of Tabata sprints into your training.

You’ll have to work harder during the sprints, but they’ll shave time off your training—plus take way less time overall to complete.

Short vs. long workouts

I know there are people out there who actually enjoy long, steady cardio.

But for the rest of us who dread spending hours feeling like a hamster in the wheel at the gym, knowing that shorter workouts are better than longer ones is such a welcome realization, it almost seems too good to be true. But it’s not.

So get off the treadmill set for 5mph, and go grab a jump rope or a kettlebell and get working. All your excuses just went out the window.

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14 thoughts on “Less is More: Why Short Workouts Are Better Than Long Ones”

  1. I totally agree. I get more work done in 30 min to an hour than most people do in 2-3. When you have less time, you are focused and work hard cause you know you have a short period of time. Plus, if you put your all into the shorter time frame, you’ll be be too tired to spend the additional time 🙂
    Love your posts

  2. I am really grateful for your book. It only took 2 weeks to see my body changes. That is amazing.

    I am getting toned and stronger than ever.

  3. i am not trying to lose weight, so for a maintenance program how many times a week should i do hiit? i don’t do anything else except chinups 1 day a week & military presses 1 day a week

  4. What if you do a 12 min workout, take a 7min break, and do another 12 min workout, and do that 3 more times, would it add up to a long workout? Or would it still be short because you took breaks?

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