Once a week, Kelly Ryan grabs her gym bag, tosses her hair into a ponytail, and hurriedly leaves her desk in midtown Manhattan. Two subway stops later, she’s clipping in for a 30-minute ride at one of her favorite studios, Peloton. “Going on my lunch hour is doable when the classes are that length,” the 28-year-old marketing manager says. “It works well with my schedule, and I feel even more productive when I’m back at my desk knowing I’ve tackled another thing on my to-do list.”
Peloton isn’t the only boutique studio offering an express class of sorts. This is officially the era of fast fitness, with more gyms, apps, and streaming platforms rolling out on the reg that are making it easier than ever to squeeze in a sweat sesh in less time than it takes most mid-day food orders to be delivered.
At the beginning of 2017, Equinox launched its wildly popular, 30-minute Firestarter class, promising members a complete cardio challenge with lightning-fast intervals. Other big names in fitness like Mile High Run Club, Pure Yoga, Exhale, and Rise Nation offer concise options to keep their clients happy. After seeing an uptick in quick-hit workouts, ClassPass is now jumping on the bandwagon, too, with its new half-hour ClassPass Live workouts.
“We find that the 30-minute classes work well with the lunchtime crowd and mornings,” says Debora Warner, the founder of MHRC. “The idea originally came from our customers, so we added it as an experiment and ended up keeping it on the schedule.”
Sadie Lincoln, the founder of Barre3, says that there’s definitely an increased interest in half-hour options, which are now part of the brand’s online programming. But when it comes to the experience inside its 125-plus locations worldwide, customers won’t find the same quickie options.
Why? “We’ve decided to keep our Barre3 studio workouts an hour because it’s important to hold space for slowing down,” Lincoln says. “Unlike at home where you have other distractions, in our studio, you can shut out the world and dive deep inside for a soulful experience. … In my eyes, time is actually what we need more of in our studios—not less.”
She’s right if good vibes are what you’re looking for in a workout. In a new study, researchers recruited overweight, inactive adults (as opposed to participants who were in shape with a consistent exercise routine) and found the subjected experienced greater pleasure doing longer workouts with moderately intense exercise than shorter, high-intensity workouts. (Just to note, both workouts burned the same number of calories.)
But the question remains: Can a 30-minute workout truly be as effective as one that’s double in length? Without a doubt, says Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports medicine physician and author of Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Workout Prescription.
“The science on intensity is quite convincing,” he says. “Thirty minutes of intense exercise, especially first thing in the morning, ramps up the metabolic furnace for the whole day. The conversion is roughly two-to-one. HIIT (high intensity interval training) is almost twice as efficient as longer steady state periods of exercise. An intense half-hour is almost equivalent to an hour jog or bike ride.”
You’ve got to be willing to put in the work—and be efficient—if your workout has a time limit.
Metzl brings up an important term: intensity. The reality is that you’ve got to be willing to put in the work—and be efficient—if your workout has a time limit. Something else to consider if you’re planning to squeeze a sweat sesh in to your afternoon break? “Bring your lunch,” suggests Ryan. “This way, I can save that time for the post-sweat shower.” Perhaps one of these healthy options for under $3 will help fuel your fitspo.