Less Is More: How Short Workouts Can Be Just As Effective

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July 2, 2021

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Between work deadlines, study, commuting, meal prepping, and keeping up with your favourite shows on Netflix, exercise can sometimes fall to the wayside. But if you can find a spare 20 minutes on a regular basis, that’s all you need to get all the benefits of regular exercise. 

On the Sweat app you can find short workouts under 20 minutes, which makes them perfect if you’re always on the go. Although these workouts are quick, they’ll usually push your heart rate zone into the maximum effort range which is how you’re able to reap the benefits of exercise in such a short time frame. 

When done properly and regularly, short workouts can be just as effective as long gym sessions – sometimes even more so!

The benefits of short workouts

Before we look at the best short workouts, it helps to understand the health and fitness benefits of quick, intense bursts of exercise.

Short workouts increase your fitness as much as long workouts

You already know that regular exercise is good for your health, but research shows that short workouts can deliver the same benefits. 

A 2016 study by researchers at McMaster University in Canada found that a 10-minute workout, which included a two-minute warm-up, three 20-second “all-out” cycle sprints and two minutes of easy cycling in between, then a three-minute cooldown – produced remarkably similar benefits when measuring cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity (both key health indicators) across 12 weeks compared to a group who performed a two-minute warm-up, 45 minutes of continuous cycling at a moderate pace and a three-minute cooldown.

Your mind will be sharper

If you’re struggling with brain fog, a short HIIT workout can help you refocus. A 2019 study by neuroscientists at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland in the US, and published in eLife found that a short burst of exercise directly boosts the region of the brain associated with learning and memory. 

Top that with the other mental health perks of breaking a sweat, including feeling happier and a reduced risk of depression, and short workouts definitely live up to the hype.

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The most effective short workout training styles

Not all short workouts are equal, and there is a catch – you’ll need to push your body to beetroot face to see results. That’s where it helps to know the best training styles to reap maximum benefits.


HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is the broad umbrella term used for any effective short workouts. HIIT is typically 20 seconds of work, with 10 seconds rest in between, or a variation of this. The idea is that you go “all out” and perform as many of the moves as you can to a timer, with recovery periods in between.

HIIT moves can be any type of cardio or explosive bodyweight exercises, including running on the spot, push ups, cycling, tuck jumps and jump squats.


Tabata is a type of HIIT. It follows the same work-rest formula, but has a very specific structure. Tabata lasts for four minutes, where you typically perform 20 seconds of high-intensity exercise, as hard as you can, for the entire 20 seconds, followed by a 10-second rest. You then repeat this for a total of 8 rounds (this will equal four minutes).

AMRAP Workouts

AMRAP, which stands for “as many repetitions as possible” is another type of short workout, where you’re given a set time to get through as many moves as you can. It’s you against the clock, and the harder you work, the better your results.  

AMRAP workouts can involve training to beat your personal best by focusing on one move, such as burpees during your set time (typically one minute). Or you might alternate between different moves such as burpees, squats and lunges. 


EMOM, or “every minute on the minute”, is a type of interval training where you complete a prescribed number of reps within a minute, then rest for whatever time you have left until the next minute round begins. You’ll try to beat the clock to earn yourself as much rest time as possible.  

EMOM workouts require little to no equipment and are easily done at home, in under 20 minutes.

Ready to try a short workout?

Most Sweat programs feature HIIT cardio, and you can find a range of express workouts in the On Demand dashboard on the Sweat app, similar to this Fast & Intense Tabata At-Home Leg Workout  or this No Equipment Express Workout

If you’re game for AMRAP, these workouts are a great way to build your overall fitness and strength. You'll find them in Chontel Duncan's FIERCE, FIERCE at Home, FIERCE Zero Equipment programs and High Intensity Strength with Cass

Work out anywhere, anytime with Sweat

Ready for your first workout?

Short on time? Try a short workout 

Even if you don’t have a lot of time, you can still get in a short, effective workout. Adding some movement into your day is always beneficial — and short workouts are  scientifically proven to help you progress your fitness. 

It can also be better for your motivation and fitness to do a mix of both long workouts and short workouts, as a combination of different exercise styles will help work different muscles in your body and ultimately deliver better results.

What’s your go-to short workout? Let us know in the comments!

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A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


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