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Paige Waehner

Is 30 Minutes of Exercise a Day Enough?

By September 26, 2012

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In Monday's blog post, I asked readers to comment on how much time they spend exercising each day. Most voted for about an hour, which is what the exercise guidelines suggest for general health, fitness and weight loss. Now, an hour might be fine for veteran exercisers, but beginners often have a hard time with that much exercise. Not only is it physically demanding, it demands more time and mental resources than you may have available. As a result, too many people skip exercise altogether.

But, what if you knew you could get results from just 30 minutes a day? That's what one study, published in The American Journal of Physiology, is now suggesting. The study took sedentary, overweight men and put them into different groups: One group that exercised for 60 minutes a day, one that exercised for 30 minutes a day and a control group that did no exercise. The findings were surprising: After three months, both exercise groups lost a similar amount of weight, even though the 60-minute group burned twice as many calories during the workouts.

So, why would you lose the same amount of weight if you're doing half the amount of exercise? There isn't a specific answer, but experts suspect that the 60-minute group overcompensated for their workouts by eating more and resting more. This is a common problem with new exercisers and a frustrating one as exercisers either don't see results at all or, worse, end up gaining weight because they're eating more calories than they realize.

Researchers suggest that 30 minutes may be more doable for non-exercisers, not only because the workouts are shorter, but because these more moderate workouts leave exercisers with enough fuel in the tank that they don't feel the need to eat more or rest more after a workout.

While veteran exercisers may need more than 30 minutes to maintain their weight, this information may give beginners the encouragement they need to start exercising.

What do you think about this study? If you've tried working out for an hour or more, have you found that you compensate for your workouts with more calories or more rest? If you're a non-exerciser, does this offer some encouragement? Leave a comment and tell us what you think about 30-minute workouts

30-Minute Workout Ideas


M. Rosenkilde, P. L. Auerbach, M. H. Reichkendler et al. Body fat loss and compensatory mechanisms in response to different doses of aerobic exercise - a randomized controlled trial in overweight sedentary males. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2012 Sep;303(6):R571-9. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

September 26, 2012 at 9:25 am
(1) Karen says:

I have found that 30 minutes to 40 minutes is easier to squeeze in your day. Every once in awhile I can get an hour in or maybe 2 30 minute walks or other exercise.

September 26, 2012 at 10:25 am
(2) Irwin says:

30 minutes a day of exercise is a joke. Every day people should walk at least 30 minutes, whether it is to go buy lunch, a walk around the park before work or a walk after dinner through the neighborhood. If someone is serious about their weight and fitness level, then add 3-4 visits to the gym a week!

September 26, 2012 at 4:51 pm
(3) StrengthCoach96 says:

30 minutes a day is fine for novice exercisers. The keys to success hinge on appropriate intensity and rest-recovery intervals. In order to maximize a workout, one needs to put more work into a workout. Stretch in between sets and minimize rest-recovery between sets and exercises to increase the intensity of the workout, which will increase the effectiveness of he workout. Essentially quality of work over quantity of work. Ground-based, compound, high-intensity exercises in 30-45 minutes will offer a greater workout than a traditional hour (or more) long workout. Beginning exercisers will benefit from a lower intensity but still with multi-joint movements and a short rest-recovery (30-45 seconds). Exercise patience by understanding that working out is a long-term process and a commitment to better health. Advanced exercisers can look into High Intensity Interval Training and similar programs to increase intensity and maximize results in a short time span. I would have Irwin begging for mercy after 18 minutes of HIIT.

October 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm
(4) Sheree says:

Being overweight and having bad knees and plantar fascia in my feet, 30 minutes on the treadmill in the morning before work is all I can handle. However, I know that I should also be incorporating weight lifting and stretching about 3 times per week.

October 1, 2012 at 11:39 pm
(5) Richard says:

Even though 30minutes can do, I think holding for like an hour is better

October 2, 2012 at 4:36 am
(6) Malcolm Lewis says:

I find 30 min a day sufficient. Because also, my normal job as a Sports Therapist can be demanding and physical as well. I do intensity workouts 3 times a week for this period. If you have a demanding and physical job on top of your exercise plan, I would say that would be sufficient for good health and fitness. However, if you are training for events (eg Triathlons, marathons etc) then the time you exercise is understandbly more to cover you for the functional event.

April 10, 2013 at 6:46 pm
(7) Couch says:

30 min exerciser = SWEAT

May 25, 2013 at 11:31 pm
(8) Sandra says:

I was more in shape in 2011 when I was walking daily from April to Sep that year. I started out slow, only 20 minutes at first for the first 3 weeks. After that, I was up to 30 minutes of walking. I’m a short *hit so I can’t go for these long long long walks. I got up to 45 minutes of walking by September 2011. Then I stopped like cold turkey since someone (a male) was following me and I got really spooked. I started to walk again Feb 2012, but not regular. I’m back to walking now at 15 minutes a day now (May 2013).

I can tell that even though I lost weight down from 205 pounds to now 195 pounds, my body is not as strong as it used to be. My bad arthritis hip can feel it after a 15 minute walk and I’m only 38. I did get down to 188 in spring 2012 due to all of the walking I did in 2011. I also was drinking tea with honey.
I don’t eat much pasta, I rarely eat red meat, I take Omega 3′s daily for my bad hip and I purchase pink salmon when I can (Foodstamps don’t go very far each month). My eating habits are top notch and I rarely go out to IN and Out Burger. I eat huge salads about 3-4 times a week. I’d be able to purchase more red leaf and romaine if I had more foodstamps. I learn to go to store every 4-5 days since ripe food like fruit/veggies go bad very QUICKLY so I must purchase a few apples etc and then go back and purchase a few more – and I must do this throughout the entire month. Toward the end of each month around the 25th or so, I start to eat nasty when I’m out of food stamps. They just don’t last 31 days. My main goal is not eating right since I’m doing pretty good on my foodstamp income. I need to walk more and get off my butt. I know I’ll feel 120% better and have much more energy at 155 pounds than 195 pounds.

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