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Which is better: Short, frequent workouts, or longer, less frequent ones?

The answer may surprise you.

Whether you love exercising, or consider it like a trip to the dentist — grueling, but necessary — you probably have a limited amount of time available for working out. Which raises a question: How best to use that time? If you have, say, 90 minutes a week available for fitness, what’s the best use of that time — lots of short workouts or a few longer ones? To find the answer, we asked the professionals at the fitness app Aaptiv for some answers. (Oh, and hey: Aaptiv yearly subscriptions are available for no cost for eligible Haven Term policyholders, via the Haven Life Plus rider.)

TL; dr: It depends

The short response is that it depends on your level of fitness. “For a beginner, you want the most frequency you can possibly get, even if that means less duration per workout,” says Aaptiv trainer Wes Pederson. This is for reasons both psychological and physiological. “To open the door to fitness, the lower the barrier to entry, the more that will create the habit and then you can start building from there,” he says. It’s also the case that if someone is just starting to exercise, their body can benefit from even a modest workout. (And, frankly, if you’re just starting to exercise, you may not have it in you to do 30 minutes initially).

However, says Pederson, “We know from research that ideally a workout is at least 20 minutes. Also, the American College of Sports Medicine says you need to have at least 20 minutes to have a cardiovascular training effect. Not that it can’t happen in 15 minutes, but it’s more profound when it’s 20 minutes or above.”

As you become fitter and your body becomes more accustomed to exercise, you’ll need longer workouts in order for them to have an effect: “You have a higher bar to overcome” to get a benefit, says Pederson. Therefore, once someone is in the habit of exercising, “very early my goal would be to get them over that 20 minutes” he says, and to soon have them doing “three workouts a week of 30 minutes each” instead of 6 workouts of 90 minutes. That’s where the benefits will really kick in.

The case for working out

While this is the ideal approach, it’s important to remember that the single most important thing about exercise is to actually do some, whatever it is.

There is a saying among photographers that “the best camera is the one you have with you,” and there is a similar truth in terms of workouts. “Everyone has different lifestyles, goals, and available time, so my biggest takeaway is to make it fit into your lifestyle/schedule, so it’s something you can consistently do,” says Aaptiv NASAM and PROnatal expert Amanda Butler. “So if it works out best for you to do six 15- or 20-minute workouts a week and you are super-intentional when you do it, that’s amazing, and a whole lot better than zero minutes.”

Fitness (and good health in general) can be a long journey, but the above guidance — and the trainers at Aaptiv — should help you get on the right path.

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About Michael Davis

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

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