Is 30 Minutes of Exercise a Day Enough?

In Monday's blog post, I asked readers to comment on how much time they spend exercising each day. Most voted for about an hour, which is what the exercise guidelines suggest for general health, fitness and weight loss. Now, an hour might be fine for veteran exercisers, but beginners often have a hard time with that much exercise. Not only is it physically demanding, it demands more time and mental resources than you may have available.

As a result, too many people skip exercise altogether.

But, what if you knew you could get results from just 30 minutes a day? That's what one study, published in The American Journal of Physiology, is now suggesting. The study took sedentary, overweight men and put them into different groups: One group that exercised for 60 minutes a day, one that exercised for 30 minutes a day and a control group that did no exercise. The findings were surprising: After three months, both exercise groups lost a similar amount of weight, even though the 60-minute group burned twice as many calories during the workouts.

So, why would you lose the same amount of weight if you're doing half the amount of exercise? There isn't a specific answer, but experts suspect that the 60-minute group overcompensated for their workouts by eating more and resting more. This is a common problem with new exercisers and a frustrating one as exercisers either don't see results at all or, worse, end up gaining weight because they're eating more calories than they realize.

Researchers suggest that 30 minutes may be more doable for non-exercisers, not only because the workouts are shorter, but because these more moderate workouts leave exercisers with enough fuel in the tank that they don't feel the need to eat more or rest more after a workout.

While veteran exercisers may need more than 30 minutes to maintain their weight, this information may give beginners the encouragement they need to start exercising.

What do you think about this study? If you've tried working out for an hour or more, have you found that you compensate for your workouts with more calories or more rest? If you're a non-exerciser, does this offer some encouragement? 

30-Minute Workout Ideas


M. Rosenkilde, P. L. Auerbach, M. H. Reichkendler et al. Body fat loss and compensatory mechanisms in response to different doses of aerobic exercise - a randomized controlled trial in overweight sedentary males. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2012 Sep;303(6):R571-9. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

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