"Get fit quick" products and gimmicks are just as common as "get rich quick" scams. We all know these things don't really work, but there is an undeniable appeal to the promise of achieving total fitness in just a few minutes a day. Fortunately, recent research has shown that it is indeed possible to lose weight and gain strength through very short exercise sessions. The catch? These workouts are much more challenging than traditional workouts. They require you to move harder, better, faster, and stronger.
Harder and Faster - High-Intensity Interval Training
The traditional approach to weight loss is diet combined with aerobic exercise, specifically steady-state cardio (walking or jogging at the same pace for an extended period of time). However, studies show that steady-state activity is not nearly as effective as high-intensity interval training ["High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss," Journal of Obesity]. Interval workouts alternate explosive exertion at 80-100% physical capacity with rest periods, and are shorter than traditional aerobic workouts. Sessions as short as twenty minutes can burn up to four times as many calories as an hour of steady-state cardio ["Exercise Intensity and Expenditure of a Tabata Workout," Journal of Sports Science and Medicine]. Additionally, these sessions are a lot more fun and engaging than trudging along on a treadmill. They target multiple muscle groups and require greater concentration and focus.
Better and Stronger - Weight Training
Likewise, when you think of strength training, you probably picture muscle-bound men spending hours a day in the gym. In fact, the average individual will see significant progress in just two sessions per week ["The Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Strength Gains," Journal of Exercise Physiology]. The key is to lift higher weights (heavy enough that completing six to eight reps is challenging) for fewer reps. This builds muscle more effectively and keeps workouts quick. And just like high-intensity intervals burn more calories than steady-state cardio, lifting heavy burns more calories than lifting light ["8 Reasons to Lift Heavy Weights," Shape].
The New Workout Plan - Motivation-Friendly and Results-Oriented
Many adopters of these new trends find that seeing better results from less time invested is worth the extra effort they put into high-intensity sessions. Short weight-lifting and interval training sessions can be squeezed into even the busiest schedule, and some gyms now offer "condensed" (shorter and more demanding) versions of their regular classes. Most importantly, the workouts are appealing on a psychological level. Whatever your goals are, it is much easier to talk yourself into putting in twenty minutes of work than committing to a hour or more on the treadmill. Hopefully, even reluctant gym-goers will find their motivation with the new workout plan.