How long does my workout need to be to see results?

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A 20-minute walk is often the first thing I recommend to people who are just starting their fitness journey and it’s the basis of our monthly workout plans for members of our Start TODAY community. Many people ask me if that’s really enough time to lose weight and see changes in the body. They want to know, “What is the ideal amount of time to work out?”

This question is a bit of a trap because people often focus on the time allotment instead of the importance of getting up and moving. Many people will tell themselves, “If I can’t do 30 minutes on the treadmill, it’s not worth it,” so they don’t exercise at all. It’s simply not true that if you can’t fit in a long workout it’s not worth it.

Even Jennifer Aniston deceived herself into thinking exercise had to take 45 minutes. She shared with TODAY that she used to take the “no pain, no gain” approach, and her workouts were “exhausting and painful.” But then she realized shorter pockets of time are worthwhile and more sustainable.

“Just do 10 to 20 minutes, you can do anything for 10 to 20 minutes,” Aniston said. “You start to enjoy it, that’s the other thing. I really do push myself, just at least do that little bit. I’ll immediately feel incredible. You just instantly start to feel those endorphins and that energy. ”

How long should you work out a day?

If you’ve just started exercising, start slowly. Eventually, you want to work up to the CDC recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, per week. 

This means 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week is the goal to aim for, but it’s just a target. Getting up and moving for any amount of time (dancing around the kitchen for 10 minutes, maybe?) is worth the effort.

New to exercise? Start with 5-minute workouts

So much of establishing — and sticking to — a workout routine is mental. Starting with a workout length that is too ambitious can be daunting and make it hard to stay motivated. Plus, you’ll feel better about your body, boost your mood and feel accomplished after just a few minutes of exercise. So I always advise people to start small. This is why I create so many five-minute workout plans and stretch routines for people to squeeze in to their day. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel after committing to just five minutes and it will help you overcome the biggest hurdle: getting started and sticking with it. The most effective routine, that will show you results, is one you stick to consistently. So start there.

Ready to commit to a solid workout routine? Aim for 20-minute workouts

If you have the time, I always start my clients at 20 minutes of movement per day. Initially, it doesn’t matter what type of movement: a walk, run, yoga, stretching, Pilates, core work, HIIT workouts — anything is great!

Starting with 20 minutes gives you enough time to warm up and push yourself to your max effort before cooling down. Eventually, working up to 30 minutes a day is ideal, but my motto is that slow and steady wins the race! Bite off an exercise goal that you can chew — and chew it consistently.

After you’re able to commit to the 20 minutes of movement a day consistently for a few weeks, I then recommend fine tuning your routine by focusing on your goals and choosing a type of exercise accordingly. Typically, my clients are stressed and holding onto fat in their midsection. So I recommend choosing a form of exercise that helps them de-stress. It may be going on a walk, sweating it out with a HIIT workout, or having some fun by doing some dance cardio. If toning is the goal, start to incorporate 20 minutes of strength training a few days each week.

Once 20 minutes of movement is a habit, choose strategic 30-minute workouts

Once you’ve made 20-minute workouts a habit, you can start to increase the amount of time you’re exercising to that recommended 30 minutes a day.

Does thinking about committing to 30 minutes a day seem overwhelming? That’s OK. Following this two-step plan of attack will help you get there: 

First, start with five minutes a day to prove to yourself that you can habitually exercise. 

Then, work on steadily increasing your workout time by 5-minute increments to 10 minutes, then 15, and so on. 

The gradual increase will have you hitting that 30-minute mark in no time. And don’t forget that three, ten-minute walks throughout the day or two, 15-minute strength sessions count!

More of your questions, answered!

What’s the best way to strength train: Low weight high reps or high weight low reps?

How many steps do I need to walk a day to lose weight?

How many days a week should I work out to lose weight and build muscle?

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