30 Minutes of Exercise Per Week Improved Health in Overweight Clients

A new study found short workouts led to significant health benefits.

One of the most common objections trainers and coaches have to face with their clients is that there isn’t enough time. In a recent PLOS ONE study, researchers examined whether or not a short exercise schedule could be useful.


In general, more is better for elite athletes. This is relative to the athlete, of course, but generally speaking, strength athletes benefit from more time spent with weight, people looking to build size typically respond better to more volume, and endurance athletes often need to spend more time at their craft. Of course, this is all assuming these athletes are able to recover fully from their workouts and remain injury free.

In the new study, the researchers attempted to determine the amount of intense exercise that would result in positive health and fitness outcomes.”

For clients who are mostly sedentary, the truth is the opposite. Most are that way because they don’t have a strong urge to spend time exercising. Advising them that success will come with time and hard work is one thing, but actually getting them to do it is another.

In the new study, the researchers attempted to determine the amount of intense exercise that would result in positive health and fitness outcomes. The study was conducted with subjects who exercised fewer than two times per week.

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Study Design

Seven men and seven women took part in the study. They were overweight but otherwise healthy. The researchers took biopsies of the subjects’ muscles at least five days before beginning the training program and then again after completion.

The program consisted of interval training on an exercise bike three times per week for six weeks. The intervals were three sets of twenty seconds of all-out cycling, separated by two minutes of active rest. The sprinting was done with resistance equaling .02kgs for every kilo of body weight.

With the two-minute warmup and three-minute cool down, the whole event made for ten minutes of total exercise. And with three sessions per week, the subjects completed a total of thirty minutes of exercise weekly, just three minutes of which was high intensity.

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First, and perhaps most importantly, the program had 100% adherence. The sessions were supervised, so if your clients had to do this on their own, the consistency might be less. But getting people to exercise regularly at all is the first and biggest step, so these results were significant.

In addition, the researchers noted the following:

  • In the muscles, the enzyme activity for energy production increased by forty percent, and the protein content of the muscles increased as well.
  • For cardiovascular health and fitness, VO2 peak increased by twelve percent, resulting in a fourteen-percent increase in workload.
  • Blood pressure generally went down.
  • Insulin sensitivity was also improved. This was caused by a reduction in fasting insulin levels, which is a good sign for prevention of metabolic disease.

In this study, one minute of intense exercise and nine minutes of light exercise per session was enough to significantly change multiple important markers for health. Even better, it was a plan that the subjects could adhere to. Short bouts of regular exercise are a great method for even the most time-crunched or unmotivated client.


1. Jenna Gillen, et. al., “Three Minutes of All-Out Intermittent Exercise per Week Increases Skeletal Muscle Oxidative Capacity and Improves Cardiometabolic Health,” PLoS ONE 201

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