Fitness + Well-being

How to Get the Most Out of a 20-Minute Workout


When you're pressed for time, even fitting in just 20 minutes of exercise is an excellent way to help you get to your weight-loss goals; after all, just 20 minutes of exercise has been shown to boost your metabolism.

Even so, when you're going for a short session, every minute counts. Here's how to set yourself up for success:

  • Do keep the intensity up: Twenty minutes of reading a magazine on the treadmill isn't going to give you the results you want. Make sure your short workouts are high-intensity in order to pack as much calorie burn as you can into just a little bit of time. These sweat-inducing high-intensity workouts will have you burning up to 400 calories in just 20 minutes.
  • Don't take too many breaks: A few short breaks may be necessary to regroup before continuing your workout, but don't make the mistake of taking too many long breaks. You should aim to keep your heart rate within the optimal zone throughout your workout in order to get the most benefits. Wear a heart-rate monitor to keep track; learn what your target heart rate should be here.
  • Don't over-snack: You want to ensure that you have enough energy for your entire workout, but since it's relatively short, you probably don't have to refuel before you start. If you're trying to lose weight, eating too much before a workout just counteracts what you're trying to accomplish. If you are feeling famished, stick to a small high-carb snack like a few crackers or a banana to help you exercise effectively and safely, and remember to drink water before and after your workout.

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  • Do warm up and cool down: Just because you are pressed for time doesn't mean you should skip the warm-up or cool-down. These few minutes are essential for priming your body for your workout or helping it recover correctly. Start your workout with a few minutes of light jogging, jumping jacks or the elliptical; end with a couple minutes of cool-down stretches to ensure you'll be ready for your next workout.
  • Don't overcompensate: You're sweaty, feeling good, and proud that you can check off your workout for the day, but don't use your 20-minute workout as an excuse to grab that extra cookie. While the calorie burn of 20 minutes of exercise is nothing to sneeze at, it takes just a few minutes and one tantalizing baked good to undo the work you just put in. Not that you shouldn't reward yourself for a job well done — here are some non-food ways to celebrate your healthy accomplishments.