Some weeks, you’re totally on top of everything, balancing your work, personal, and family life with the ease of a professional juggler. Other times, you’re in a busy season where one area of your life requires more of your focus and energy. And in these times, your workout routine is usually the first thing to be sacrificed. After all, you’ve only got 20 minutes to work out. Is that even enough?
Even with a minimal window, your body and mind will always thank you for committing to a quick workout (and by workout, we’re referring to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, cycling, playing doubles tennis, and other similar activities). However, if you’re used to tackling longer workout classes (hello, Jess Sims’ Saturday 60!) or stacking multiple workouts to satisfy your craving for variety, you might wonder if 20 minutes is too little time.
Our conclusion: No—any workout counts! When you have a strategic approach to these shorter workouts, you can break a serious sweat in less time than it takes to watch an episode of The Office. We talked with Peloton Tread instructors Olivia Amato and Selena Samuela to learn more about why even a 20-minute workout can still be effective in helping you stay committed to your fitness goals.
Is a 20-Minute Workout Enough?
Guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) also back up these research findings. The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, which equals around 21 minutes per day. And if that’s still too much time during an especially busy season of life, you can aim for 75 minutes per week of “vigorous” exercise, such as running hills, swimming laps, playing basketball, and more. That works out to about 11 minutes per day.
So yes, according to both medical guidelines and research (which we’ll get into below), 20 minutes of exercise per day is enough—as long as that exercise is at least moderate in intensity.
What Are the Benefits of Shorter Workouts?
You may be surprised to find that according to several studies, shorter workouts come with several promising benefits, including resetting your mental state, increasing your lifespan, and more effectively burning calories. Here are all the upsides that come with squeezing in that workout, no matter how quick it is.
Enjoy a Mental Reset
Fitting in a quick workout is better than no workout at all, and these shorter workouts can help you refresh your headspace during a hectic day. “It can be anything from yoga, walking, cycling or running,” Olivia says. “For example, even a short run allows me to take time for myself and clear my head. It takes me to my place where I can let go of the things I can’t control and step into a more positive headspace whether it’s 10 minutes or 60 minutes!”
Increase Your Lifespan
Would you take on 20 minutes of high-intensity interval exercise if you knew it would improve your longevity? Researchers studied over 1,500 Norwegians over 70 years of age and found that a program of twice-weekly HIIT workouts was connected to a longer lifespan and better overall fitness. Plus, the HIIT group enjoyed a greater overall quality of life than other participants.
That’s not surprising, considering other studies have found that shorter bouts of physical activity can be more manageable for older adults, who may struggle with longer exercise intervals. Building a habit of shorter workouts, then, can be valuable in building an exercise habit.
Additionally, shorter high-intensity workouts have been shown to enhance cognitive flexibility (aka the ability to recall information and maintain focus) in older adults, which may account for that improved longevity. So ask yourself: Do you have 20 minutes today to add possible years to your life?
Increase Calorie Burn
Shorter workouts can be more effective for calorie burn, especially when high-intensity intervals are incorporated. High-intensity interval workouts (aka HIIT) involve working for a set duration at a high effort, followed by a dedicated recovery period. The idea is to work as hard as possible while you’re “on,” then recover fully during your “off” periods.
How to Make Shorter Workouts Effective
While 20 minutes may not seem like enough time for a workout, Olivia challenges you to remember that it’s all about quality over quantity. “Remember, if you give 100 percent effort in that 20-minute workout, you’ll get more out of it than giving 60 percent during a 45-minute workout,” says Olivia.
Use these tips to make sure your shorter workouts are as effective as possible.
Focus On Effectiveness
When your time is limited, choose classes that get that heart rate up. Olivia suggests tapping in to any HIIT run on the Peloton App. “High intensity interval training is where you alternate short bursts of high intensity efforts followed by short recoveries,” says Olivia. “It’s the perfect workout to do when you only have 20 minutes or so.”
If you’re looking for doses of both cardio and strength, that’s just a tap away too. “The Bootcamp classes include both running and strength portions so you’ll hit both disciplines,” says Selena. And if you’re having trouble choosing or want to hit a specific area, building your own playlist of 5- or 10-minute classes works too. “There’s so much great snackable and stackable content to choose from on the Peloton App in order to build an amazing 20-minute workout,” says Selena.
Keep Building On The Work
The most important thing about a 20-minute workout is that you chose to be there, and you reinforced your commitment to yourself and your fitness routine. “When was the last time you regretted showing up and doing the work?” says Selena, “Never, right?” Simply moving your body for 20 minutes during a busy day will keep the blood flowing and keep you committed to doing what’s best for you.
“You don’t have to do your best work every day, you just have to do the work. Every day we get a little stronger, a little faster, we have a little more heart and a little more power. Who’s with me?”
Now that you know the 20 minutes is enough, it’s time for some short but sweet inspiration. Check out 20-minute HIIT classes on the Peloton App by filtering by length and class type to find your perfect workout snack.