Females working out

No matter what’s going on or where it might be going on, time is often of the essence when it comes to just about anything. The clock can be one of the biggest barriers to finding consistent routines, especially when it comes to exercising on a regular basis. But it doesn’t have to be. Check out how to squeeze in a quick yet still-effective workout that can generate real results, even if only 30 minutes are up for grabs.

Time is exercise

There is no such thing as a bad workout, says Cathy Spencer, vice president of programming and training at Mossa, a physical fitness program in Marietta, Georgia.

“It is these times that we really need to work hard to adjust the self-talk, to speak to ourselves with kind words, and understand that just doing it means success,” Spencer says. “Some days we don’t feel our best, which is a perfectly normal part of the human experience.”

Although some skeptics might think that short workouts aren’t as sufficient as longer workouts, Spencer says they “absolutely” are effective.

“Our body assesses exercise not by a clock,” she says. “Our body assesses exercise and movement based on what the body is doing and how it is feeling and even what it is needing. Some workouts are actually better when they are 30 minutes or under.”

Toril Hinchman, director of fitness and wellness at Thomas Jefferson University’s East Falls campus in Philadelphia, agrees, adding that while it depends on people’s individual goals, 30 minutes is great to get in a quick, efficient workout.

“If you utilize a warmup with similar movements to the exercises you select for your workout, you can be even more efficient over the 30 minutes,” Hinchman says. “You can do a 30-minute run, yoga session, spinning class or HIIT workout. If we maintain focus on the training we are doing, these workouts can be quite effective.”

Don’t let the clock stop you

Aside from being good timesavers, mood boosters and energy savers, Spencer says 30-minute exercises can be easier to squeeze into a busy day. They are not particularly psychologically overwhelming; relatively less taxing physically; require less recovery in between workouts; and enable more variety in the movements and what parts of the body are worked out.

“It ultimately comes back to what do you like? What can you get your teeth into? What can you habituate?” Spencer says. “Broadly speaking, we can get fantastic cardio benefits in 30 minutes. Continuous movement of the body for 30 minutes, with an elevated heart rate, is undeniable in terms of heart health benefits, not to mention all of the other benefits that come from getting an elevated heart rate.”

And whether it’s morning, noon or night, Hinchman says, it’s important to fit in a 30-minute workout when it makes sense and when the time is available.

“The most important part is to schedule your workout at the time of day that will be most effective for you,” Hinchman says. “Before work is great, but if you have a busy morning and have trouble consistently training at this time, perhaps this isn’t your best option. After work is great, too, but if you tend to get tired and are more likely to skip your workouts scheduled at this time, you may need to make another choice. Making exercise a priority in your day and at a time that you know you will lead to the greatest adherence and consistency is always the best overall plan.”

Go-to exercises from Toril Hinchman

• 30-minute HIIT workout: (5-minute warmup, 20 minutes of high-intensity intervals and a 5-minute warmdown)

5-minute warmup consisting of

dynamic stretching and jump rope

(or other cardio)

Air squats x20sec

10 seconds of rest

Pushups x20sec

10 seconds of rest

Alternating lunges x20sec

10 seconds of rest

Mountain climbers x20sec

10 seconds of rest

Jump squats x20sec

10 seconds of rest

Plank hip dips x20sec

10 seconds of rest

Alternating side lunges x20sec

10 seconds of rest

Supine heel taps x20sec

10 seconds of rest

Take 1 minute to recover,

then repeat above 4x through

5-minute warmdown

• 30-minute compound full-body dumbbell workout:

5-minute warmup with dynamic stretching and jump rope (or substitute stationary bike or other cardio)

20-minute dumbbell circuit:

Squat to shoulder press (10 reps)

Step-up to bicep curl (10 reps)

Split squat to lateral shoulder raise (20 reps) – after 10 reps alternate which foot is in front

Walking lunge with twist (10 reps)

Walking pushups (10 reps)

Elbow plank to side plank

(both sides) – 1 minute

Repeat circuit until you get

to 20 minutes

5-minute warmdown