Fitness Fun

[Updated] Exercising: The Most Important 30 Minutes

Mondays are my busiest day of the week. I have to get 5 different kids to 4 different schools. I drive 2 carpools and volunteer at the elementary school. For me that means the only option I have to exercise on Monday is if I’m done and home before 7 a.m. YUCK!

But, I do it because exercise is a priority to me and because I always feel and function better with a workout under my belt.

This week, when Monday rolled around my alarm went off at 5:38 and I hit snooze…twice. Once I was conscious enough to realize what I had done, it was 5:58 and I knew that by the time I got dressed and ready, I would only have 30 min at the gym before it was time to head home. So I threw in the towel, went back to bed, and spent the day feeling sluggish and guilty about my missed workout.

Those sluggish and guilty feelings got me thinking and I realized that I would have felt a lot better if I had strapped on my running shoes and made the most of those 30 minutes rather than just giving up. In fact, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve learned that 30 minutes can make a big difference in your workout routine.

Benefits of 30 Min of Exercise

The truth is, whether you exercise for three hours or 30 minutes your body, and I mean your WHOLE body, is going to see some pretty awesome changes. The kind of changes that make all the difference when you are trying to change your life.

1.Helps Weight Loss (maybe even more than 60 min would)
In case you’re still thinking that 30 minutes really isn’t worth your time because it can’t make that much of a difference, you’re wrong. A study done at the University of Copenhagen showed that 30 minutes of daily exercise was more effective for weight and fat loss than 60 minutes of daily exercise. In the study, 60 overweight men were split into two groups. One was asked to participate in 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (running, biking or rowing). The other was asked to do the same, but for 60 minutes each day. When the 13 week study wrapped up, the group that spent 30 minutes exercising each day lost an average of 7.9 pounds while their counterparts lost an average of 6.0 lbs.

I don’t know about you, but 30 minutes is sounding pretty good to me right about now. Less time and better results seem like a no-brainer to me.

2.”Plastic” Brain

Brain inside head on blue background

Don’t worry, I’m not about to tell you that trying to figure out a new exercise plan is so difficult that it’s going to turn your brain to plastic. Actually, the opposite is true. When you hear the word plastic in terms of your brain, it’s a good thing. Brain plasticity is all about the brain’s ability to change and it turns out that exercise is VERY beneficial when it comes to a plastic brain.

Medical Daily reports that 30 minutes of exercise a day will make your brain more plastic. The article cites an Australian study that concludes, “one 30-minute session of vigorous exercise can lead to changes in the brain that make it more ‘plastic,’ including improvements in memory and motor skill coordination.” (Remember that word “vigorous” we’ll be getting back to that later).

Let’s talk a little bit more about the idea of changing your brain. Isn’t that the whole point of weight loss? Changing your brain to help you meet your goals. Changing your brain to fuel your willpower, to stop sabotaging yourself, and to ultimately help you accomplish your goals. If 30 minutes of exercise a day can give your brain the power to change, why wouldn’t you do everything possible to fit it in? It sounds like a no-brainer to me.

3. Better Focus During Workouts

Woman exercise with kettle bell - Crossfit workout
Think about it. If you know you only have 30 minutes to give to something, are you going to stand around wasting your time?

Probably not. Instead you’ll likely give it a strong and focused effort so that you can make the most of the time you have. The benefit of focus may be one of the best when it comes to the 30 minute workout. It makes it possible for you to go all out all the for the duration of your workout without worrying about wearing yourself out because time will be up before you know it.

4. More Energy Later
Remember this Danish Study we talked about earlier? The one that showed that less time working out may actually be more effective. One of the study authors, Dr. Astrid Jespersen said, “The subjects in the test group that exercised the least talk about increased energy levels and a higher motivation for exercising and pursuing a healthy everyday life. They take the stairs, take the dog for an extra walk or cycle to work. In contrast, the men who exercised for one hour a day, after training, felt exhausted, demotivated and less open to making a healthy change. We are thus seeing that a moderate amount of exercise will significantly impact the subjects’ daily practices.”

In case you missed that:
30 minutes of moderate exercise > 60 minutes of moderate exercise.
Sounds like a winning equation to me.


Don’t forget that it’s not just the time that matters, it’s how you use your time. The effectiveness of your workout depends as much (if not more) on intensity as it does on time. One hour of leisurely walking will never do as as much for your body as 30 minutes of weightlifting. An hour spent wandering around the gym wondering how to use the machines without looking like a fool can’t ever come close to the benefits of a HIIT workout.

To make the most of your 30 minutes, you need a combination of cardio and resistance (strength) training and you need to go in with a plan. Never start your workout wondering what you’re going to be doing. Have a plan for the entire 30 minutes and you will see more success that you can imagine.

In case you don’t know where to start, we suggest looking to our favorite fitness expert, Trainer Lindsay, and her awesome 12-week shape up challenge. It’s free, requires minimal equipment and includes a great support network to get you started and keep you motivated.

How to “Fit” It In (pun intended)

It’s all about priorities. If changing your body and your life is important to you, you will make time. You might be struggling to see how and where, so I’ll get you started with a few ideas:

Wake up 45 min earlier-I know that your workout will only take 30 minutes but you need a few extra minutes to get yourself ready to go.

Use your lunch break-with a 30 min workout you’ll still have time to shower, grab an IdealShake or IdealBar and get back to work.

After work-your kids are already being well loved at daycare so why not leave them there for a few more minutes while you get your sweat on? As an added bonus, you don’t even have to shower before you get home.

After the kids go to bed, but before TV time-make your workout a prerequisite to turn on the TV. No workout. No Bachelor. And who knows, by the time you start the Bachelor, you may just feel like keeping the workout going.

Right before bed-if you’re dedicated to changing your life and losing some weight, nothing will make you feel better than falling into bed completely exhausted, hopefully showered, and knowing that you finished your day with a win!


The more I think about it, the more I realize that 30 minutes is easy. I waste at least that much time on social media or watching television every day. And I know for a fact that I always feel a lot better about myself when I use my time taking care of me than when I use my time doing a whole lot of nothing. So what about you: when and where are you going to fit your 30-minutes in?

Feeling inspired but not sure where to start? Try our free IdealShape up challenge complete with meal plans AND 30 min exercise routines:
Join the IdealShape Up Challlenge


Becca Mathis

Becca Mathis

Writer and expert

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