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Do Short Workouts Work? With these tips and strategies, fitting fitness into your day can be efficient and effective.

Lack of time is among the top excuses for not exercising. Well, that excuse may not hold up now that research is showing that short bursts of exercise can indeed be beneficial. Some findings suggest that as little as 30 minutes a week can provide health benefits. Getting started the right way is important to any successful workout, especially shorter ones.

"Warm up appropriately because you're going quicker and going all out with high-intensity interval training," recommends physical therapist Karen Hamill, UCLA Department of Rehabilitation Services. "Also be sure to stretch afterward as that is when you have the most flexibility from the added blood flow from exercise."

HIIT May Favor the Unfit

High-intensity interval training or HIIT, is a concept integral to short workout routines. At its simplest, HIIT means that you exercise at full intensity for a short burst (usually 20-30 seconds), followed by active recovery (easy pace for a minute or so), for a total time of about 20 minutes. A couch potato and a seasoned athlete can both benefit from HIIT because intensity is relative. But some research has shown that those who are unfit can benefit the most.

A study published in the journal Obesity looked at the effects of HIIT on those at risk for diabetes or those who already had type 2 diabetes. According to the study abstract: There was a reduction in insulin resistance following HIIT compared with both control conditions (CON), and continuous training participants (CT). Compared with both control groups, HIIT training decreased body weight and blood sugar levels. There were no statistically significant differences between groups in other outcomes overall. However, participants at risk of or with type 2 diabetes experienced reductions in fasting glucose compared with controls. Thus, the authors conclude that HIIT appears effective at improving metabolic health, particularly in those at risk of or with type 2 diabetes.

Exercise intensity is key, but intensity is relative to your current level of fitness. In general, HUT sessions are meant to be completed in less than 30 minutes. It doesn't matter what you do, so long as you go hard during the intensity phase. It can be shadow boxing, a walk/jog combination, or stationary cycling. What you want is that push that makes your heart beat faster and lungs work harder. It can and should be quite exhausting. If you haven't worked out in a while or have health issues, talk with your doctor about the safest way to get started.

Slow, Short and Intense

Another way to maximize your exercise time is to perform resistance training exercises very slowly. Advocates of the slow method cite that a complete workout that includes upper and lower body as well as core can be completed in just 20 minutes. The concept dates back to the 1980s and was created by Ken Hutchins, an inventor and writer who worked for the Nautilus exercise equipment company. Hutchins developed the protocol while working on an osteoporosis study conducted at the University of Florida in 1982. The women were so frail that he instructed them to slowly lift and lower the weight so as to minimize injury. The method, dubbed Super Slow, was shown to be safer and more effective in building muscle.

The basic idea is to exhaust the muscle until it fails, and to do so in a short period of time. In the Super Slow protocol the sequence is lift for 10 seconds, lower for 10 seconds, and smoothly continue to the next repetition without rest between. The method removes momentum from both the lift and lower phase, relying on the muscle to do all the work. Typically, only five to eight repetitions are needed to fully exhaust a muscle. In other words, your muscles fail and you cannot do one more rep. Muscle fatigue can feel shaky and twitchy. Proper form is crucial, as is selecting the correct starting weight. The method can be done with any kind of resistance training devices, such as dumbbells, tubing, or machines. But the safest way to get started is with machines because they offer more support and more even distribution of weight compared to free weights.

Why a Trainer Is Helpful

If you're just starting out, need extra motivation, or want someone to help you up your game, there's nothing like credentialed, experienced personal trainers for individual attention. They can design short-intensity workouts ideal for your current and desired level of fitness.

Some boutique fitness studios touting 20-minute or Super Slow workouts often include a personalized coach as part of their process. They determine the best starting weight, teach you good form, and keep a record of your progress. Once you understand the rhythm and process, it's certainly possible to do this on your own. But trainers also offer accountability and motivation. Most people advance faster with someone to inspire them along the way.

Caption: Personal trainers hold you accountable for doing exercises correctly.
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Title Annotation:EXERCISE
Publication:Healthy Years
Date:May 1, 2017
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