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Every few months, a headline like this one pops up: “World’s Shortest Workout!”
The story typically describes a study in which people transform themselves with a routine that’s shorter than most post-workout showers. There were reports of a four-minute workout that boosted fitness and torched fat. It seemed to answer this universal question: “How little exercise can I get away with?”
Except it wasn’t really a four-minute workout – it was four minutes of hellacious training (running at 90% of maximum heart rate) within a 19-minute workout. The study participants – overweight, largely sedentary men – may or may not represent you. And the results may or may not be what you can attain.
Bottom line: no one knows the least amount of time required to see measurable progress in any aspect of fitness, whether it’s strength, muscle or endurance. On the flip side, everyone knows (or eventually discovers) that too-long workouts can lead to diminishing returns. But between the extremes are plenty of options to choose from.
Which is best for you? Remember that exercise stresses your body, and your workout’s duration doesn’t matter as much as the amount of stress it imposes – and the recovery it requires. So the time to crank up your training intensity is when you have a manageable amount of stress in other areas of your life. Pare back when deadlines loom or chaos reigns. In those times, you’re under a lot of mental stress, so keep your physical stress to a minimum.