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Is a 30-Minute Workout Really Enough?

April 14th, 2021 | 3 min. read

By Brandon Rice, Health Coach

is a 30-minute workout enough?

Most sports apparel commercials feature athletes engaging in several hours of exercise and dripping with sweat. These athletes embody the important benefits of working out: fit and strong bodies, increased cardiovascular performance, better cognitive function and more energy.

But when you think of achieving these benefits for yourself, most people find it hard to find the time to devote even an hour per day to exercise, let alone the intense workouts we have come to think of as normal. Therefore, if you can’t invest that kind of time and energy, you might as well do nothing, right?


While moving your body frequently throughout the day is a good idea, the American Heart Association recommends a standard activity level of 150 minutes per week. This amount can be broken down any way you wish and, when spread over a 5-day work week, results in a recommended 30 minutes per day.

You'll want to work out at anywhere between 60% to 80% of your maximum heart rate. The easiest way to find your maximum heart rate is to take the number 220 and subtract your age. That's going to be your maximum or estimated maximum heart rate and then multiply that number by 0.6 and by 0.8 to find the range you want to keep it at during exercise. 

30 Minutes of Exercise Can Significantly Improve Your Health

Is 30 minutes really enough time for a workout? Yes, it is! Most people think that if they can only fit in 30 minutes of exercise it won’t be enough, especially compared to a 45-minute spin class or a 1-hour yoga class. However, 30 minutes of exercise is more than enough time to get in a great workout. You just have to do it the right way.

Think of a small amount of exercise like continuously depositing money into a bank account. Even if the contribution is small, it helps to grow the overall wealth of the account over time. When it comes to exercise, even if you’re working out for a shorter amount of time, you are still benefiting your health by building strength and endurance.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, build muscle mass, or maintain your current weight, 30 minutes of exercise can help you stay on track and reach your goals.

Four Principles of Exercise

When you work out, there are four principles that guide the value of your exercise: frequency, intensity, time, and type. When you can exercise for a long period of time, such as a 3-4 hour hike, you tone down the frequency, intensity, and type of exercise to allow your body to finish the hike without getting hurt or overwhelmed.

When you have less time to commit to your exercise, you need to maximize the other three, frequency, intensity, and type. You can do this by using compound movements, full-body exercises, and working out at a higher intensity than you might be used to, which will strengthen your cardiovascular health.

The Best 30-Minute Exercise

When you only have a short amount of time to exercise, maximize your efficiency:

  • Create a plan of attack in advance so you don’t need to spend time thinking about each transition you make. Write your workout down and make sure that it is something you know how to do, so you are ready to get in there, do your workout, and maximize that time.
  • Change things up. Try new things to keep it fresh. It'll help "shock" your body a little bit by working new muscles.
  • Use sleep and nutrition as a complement. Make sure you're getting enough sleep and fueling your body properly before and after working out so that you can take advantage of your 30 minutes. 

When you only have 30 minutes to work out, focus on quality rather than quantity. Pay special attention to your form, technique, and breathing, and focus on the connection between your mind and your body. Engage every muscle possible in each movement.

As with anything in life, 30 minutes is all about how you use it. Whether your goal is to work out more, run an errand, or send an email, if you have 30 minutes and you’re able to accomplish any part of the task, it’s worth it to accomplish at least that much rather than being unproductive.

So when you have a small segment of time that you can use for exercise, do it! It’s always worth it and will result in an enormous contribution to your health over time.

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Brandon Rice, Health Coach