One of the most common mistakes people make with fitness is thinking they need an hour or more to exercise effectively. I want to introduce you to five ways you can exercise effectively without spending more than 30 minutes on a session – sometimes it could be as little as 15-20 minutes.

Tabata or HIIT sessions

Tabata is a high intensity type of interval workout based on 4 minutes in total – 20 seconds of high intensity exercise and 10 seconds rest. The idea is that you work very hard for 20 seconds and recover, except that the recovery periods feel less and less as the time goes on! With each tabata only lasting 4 minutes, you could do 3 of these in a workout with great effects.

Interval sessions

If you already have a running or jogging routine, this will be easy to add in. If you don’t, this is a great way to maximise the efficiency of your exercise session and make good progress in terms of cardiovascular fitness and speed. After warming up for at least a mile, identify a tree, lamp post or similar that is approximately 100m away (start at less if you’re a beginner). Run as fast as you can towards that marker, then walk back. Repeat 10 x and then cool down with a slow lap.

Lift something heavy

Everyone should be combining cardiovascular or aerobic exercise with strength work, but especially if you’re over 40 and even more so if you’re a post-menopausal woman. Resistance training like weight lifting, bodyweight training and kettlebells for example, helps promote bone health. This is particularly important for post-menopausal women because they produce less oestrogen, which affects bone density. But whatever your age, lift something heavy every day if you can, whether that’s shopping bags, a kettlebell, a set of dumbbells or pressing your own bodyweight.

Be present and focused

If you only have a short amount of time to workout, make the most of it. Focus on what you’re going to do and why – what’s your intent? By just being present for the exercise you’re doing, you can get more from it. Focus on the muscles you’re working, and maintain that focus for the duration of the exercise. It’s much better to be fully engaged for a short period of time than half-engaged but you’ve ticked the box of ‘one-hour workout done’.


Maximise the time you’re spending on exercise by combining it with something else you love. For example, I now walk a lot more than I used to because I love listening to podcasts. I’ve intersected listening to great content with exercise by buying a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for when I’m walking. If you struggle to get into your workouts, try intersecting exercise with something else – maybe it’s finding a training buddy who you don’t get to see much, or listening to music.

leanne spencer

Leanne Spencer

This article first appeared in the October 2017 issue of SE22 magazine.