Shorter Workouts More Often, or Longer Workouts Less Frequently

Which is best?

We recently got a question from one of our Komrades, Karen from California, asking which is better – shorter workouts more often, or longer workouts with more rest days in between? No surprise, Karen isn’t the only one who asks that, so Cat Kom was joined by Shannon, one of our fab in-studio SWEATers (fresh from a killer Spin class, sporting that gorgeous sweaty glow), to tackle the pros and cons of both.

At the top level of the topic, let’s start with this – the CDC suggests a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week. That’s the minimum… they prefer 300 minutes. For the sake of discussion, let’s say you’re aiming for 180 medium to high intensity activity minutes. Should you do six 30-minute sessions, or 3 60-minute workouts?

Benefits of shorter, more frequent workouts:

  1. Availability – Sometimes carving out the (more like) 90 minutes it takes to do a 60 min workout can be tough for many. But 30-45 minutes is much more achievable with so many working and schooling from home, and all the other pressures of a chaotic life. So if you can only commit to those shorter workouts, that’s cool, at least you’re doing them! Now Shannon prefers to do 60-minute workouts, on average 5 times per week. The CDC would call her a Super Star with those 300 solid minutes a week! And guess what, the girl very rarely gets sick. She’s healthy as a horse!
  2. Immunity – Every time you workout, you’re boosting your immune system – simply put, exercising improves your white blood cell count and circulation. So in that regard, more often = better.
  3. Mood boosting – Like many of us, Shannon loves to workout as time away from all the things. The endorphins that give that “runners high” might be the top reason for frequent workouts. Your body AND mind are so happy with you when you release life for a little while.
  4. Glucose sensitivity – in shorter higher-intensity workouts, your body will become more sensitive to glucose. Without going too far into the science here, this means that you’ll store glucose in your muscles instead of in fat cells. Winning! 

Benefits of longer workouts:

As mentioned, Shannon loves to get a whole hour workout as often as 5 times a week, maybe even a couple more if a favorite instructor has extra classes on the schedule. So how does she benefit from those longer workouts? Well, in a lot of ways, but let’s look at the top 2:

  1. Endurance – longer workouts will build your endurance. If you can’t tackle 5 hour-long workouts a week like Shannon, start with 2-3, and as your endurance builds you can add more.
  2. Calorie burn – Let’s look at an example of working out Monday for 30 minutes, Tuesday for 30 minutes, and Wednesday for 60 minutes. Every time you start a workout, you’ve got to warm up into the fat burning zone. If you figure 7-8 minutes of warm up, you’ll then spend the rest of the class (even in most interval workouts) up in the fat burning zone for the rest of the class. You do the math. In a typical 30 minute workout, Shannon shares that she may burn about 240 calories, but in a 60 minute class, she’ll be as high as 500-700 (higher for men). So longer class = longer fat burn.

That’s all a short story to say it depends, and any exercise is better than none, so look at your goals and do what’s best for you.

And for those body-sculpting, fat-torching workouts where you can sweat it all out like Shannon, join us in person at Studio SWEAT and online at Studio SWEAT onDemand!