Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Healthy Weight Center

Reduce your Exercise Time in Half!

If you are like most Americans, fitting time for exercise into your busy schedule is a real challenge!

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you need 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobics training a week to improve your aerobics fitness level. This would include activities such as brisk walking, water aerobics or bicycling slower than ten miles per hour to name a few. The CDC also recommends that you strength train at least two times per week to increase lean muscle mass, improve balance, and reduce the risk of bone density loss.

So how do you fit the required aerobic exercise along with two strength training sessions into every week?

One way is to increase your workout intensity from moderate to vigorous! When you partake in what the CDC calls vigorous exercise, you only need 75 minutes a week of aerobic exercise. That is only 15 minutes of exercise a day, five times a week! Some examples of vigorous activity include running, swimming laps or bicycling more than ten miles an hour. These activities are harder than moderate intensity training, and therefore require most people to build up their endurance first.

Before You Try These Techniques:

 *It is important to note that you should have a good cardiovascular and strength base already built up before trying these techniques. Vigorous training can be quite difficult and taxing on the body. You will most likely be sorer when performing vigorous exercise compared to moderate exercise levels. This is especially true when beginning an exercise program. When first attempting vigorous levels of exercise, try to complete a few 30-second intervals per exercise session.  If you are going to do any vigorous cardiovascular training, always warm up and cool down to prevent injuries and maximize your workouts.

Always consult your physician before starting a workout routine. 

Interval Training
One way to work up to 15 minutes of vigorous activity is a training method called interval training. Interval training allows you to mix vigorous and moderate intensity exercise so that you can build up your endurance easier and at a more gradual pace.

To start interval training, warm up with a moderate activity such as briskly walking for five minutes. Next increase the exercise intensity to a vigorous level such as running, a ten mile per hour biking pace, or a quick lap swim in the pool. Continue this pace for a minimum of 60 seconds. Then slow back down to a moderate pace for 60 seconds to give your body a short breather. Repeat the 120 second vigorous and moderate intensity pairings four more times for a total of five intervals. Finally cool down with ten minutes of moderate intensity exercise. This entire interval workout will only take you 20 minutes! That's a 50 minute reduction in total exercise time you need per week!

Every week work to increase your vigorous exercise time between five and thirty seconds per interval while simultaneously reducing your moderate training time by the same amount. Continue to build up endurance until you can do 15 minutes of vigorous training without stopping.



What about strength training, you ask? One way to reduce your strength training exercise time in half is to complete a training intensifier technique called supersets. Supersets are when you complete two exercises back to back, with no rest in between.

To complete a superset, do two different exercises immediately one after the other. Only rest long enough to walk to the next machine, switch dumbbells or change positions. Stick with a weight where you can complete eight to twelve challenging repetitions. Try doing two related (pushups and bench press for chest), unrelated (sit-ups and calf raises for abdominals and calves), or opposing muscle group exercises (bicep curls and tricep press downs for biceps and triceps) to change up your routine and keep it fresh.

So there you have it, two techniques that can reduce your exercise time in half! Go out and give interval training and supersets a try!

How much physical activity do adults need? 17 Dec. 2008. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 14 July 2009.

Tabata, I, et al. "Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, v. 28 issue 10, 1996, p. 1327-30.

Trapp, EG.; Chisholm, DJ.; Freund, J.; Boutcher, SH. "The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women." International Journal of Obesity, v. 32 issue 4, 2008, p. 684-91.

For more information:

Go to the Healthy Weight Center health topic, where you can:

This article is a NetWellness exclusive.

Last Reviewed: Aug 18, 2014

Brian C Focht, PhD, FACSM, CSCS Brian C Focht, PhD, FACSM, CSCS
Assistant Professor of Sport & Exercise Sciences
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University

Steven T Devor, PhD, FACSM Steven T Devor, PhD, FACSM
Associate Professor of Sport & Exercise Sciences and Physiology & Cell Biology
School of PAES
The Ohio State University