As our lives get busier, it can feel harder and harder to make time to hit the gym regularly, even for a short workout. Not to mention the hours-long sessions we feel are necessary to move beyond maintaining into seeing real change in our performance. And when making time for dedicated workouts seems impossible, or you’re not seeing the changes you want to make despite your efforts, it can be easy to throw in the towel and give up on your goals altogether. 

But what if we told you that shorter workouts—as short as 13 minutes—were just as effective in building strength as hour-long workouts? And that, especially as we age, our bodies require more recovery time, meaning daily training might be doing you more harm than good?

We know that exercising regularly is healthy, but it’s also important to most of us that we see and feel the results from our hard work in the gym while still having time to enjoy our lives outside of it. We want it all! Fortunately, when it comes to exercise, it’s all about working smarter—not harder.

Maximize Your Time

In an article published early this year in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers explored the effects of time spent strength training over an eight-week period. 

The study found that low-volume individuals—each averaging less than 40 minutes of strength training per week—experienced no significant difference in the increase of strength and endurance than the middle-volume or high-volume individuals, who averaged around five hours of strength training per week. The study concluded that significant increases in strength and endurance can be attained in as few as three 13-minute strength training sessions per week.

When you don’t feel like a successful workout routine means having to spend an hour (or more!) of each day in the gym, sticking to scheduled workouts suddenly seems a lot easier. And, staying focused on getting the most out of your workout for 13 minutes is way easier than staying focused for an hour-long gym session. 

Rethink Your Recovery

Another set of research from the same journal looked at the impact of recovery on a workout regimen, and found that as people age—even athletes who exercise regularly at a high intensity—they recover more slowly. 

The research concluded that as we age our muscle proteins take longer to repair themselves, and that not allowing appropriate recovery time actually works against your goals—it results in poorer performance over time. 

In addition, inadequate recovery for athletes or weekend warriors of any age can result in stress-related strain or compensations that can ultimately lead to more serious pain or injury. Paying close attention to what your body is telling you—especially if it’s telling you to take a break—can help you build a workout cadence that will help you achieve your goals without putting you at risk of injury.

Consult With an Expert

Staying physically active is an important part of living a long, healthy life. And being smarter about how you fit physical activity into your life can help you find workout plan that actually sticks. But it can be hard to do on your own. 

If you’re feeling pain related to inadequate recovery, or you’re just looking for ways to exercise smarter, especially as your body ages, talk to your Orthology-affiliated physical therapist or chiropractor. They can help you create a plan that achieves your goals without upending your lifestyle.