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Is it better to do short or long workouts?

No pain, no gain. No effort, no result. No guts, no glory. For some reason, these are the mantras that overthrow our thoughts when we consider the benefits of exercise. We have been trained to believe that in order to see results (i.e. weight loss, fat loss, muscle increase) from exercise, we need to run until we can barely breathe, lift heavy weights until we are tomato red in the face, obsess with a fitness watch or tracker or spend hour upon hour walking around an imaginary treadmill track. The truth is, your morning workout routine doesn’t have to leave you feeling depleted for the rest of the day. In fact, the right mix of strength training, cardio and flexibility can actually provide you with all of the energy you need (and maybe more!) to get you through your day.

While life before children may have gifted you with the extra time (and drive) to take back-to-back bootcamp classes, busy mamas need workouts that are effective and efficient and will leave them feeling invigorated, as opposed to exhausted. And, no matter how fit you were before, during or after pregnancy, all of us are susceptible to overdoing it, especially when we find ourselves with a little extra time and energy on our hands. It’s tempting to add a few extra sprints to a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout, a mile or two to a run, or additional minutes on the elliptical when we feel that we have some extra gas in the tank. However, that added push may not be worth the mental and physical pull.

Recent studies have drawn a link between moderate exercise – such as steady state cardio and barre workouts – and a healthy immune system. According to David Nieman, Ph.D., of Appalachian State University, when a person engages in moderate training on a regular basis, her or his long-term immune response actually improves. Nieman’s recent work showed that people who walked for 40-minutes a day at a moderate pace (i.e. walking two miles in 30 minutes), experienced half as many sick days caused by sore throats or colds than those individuals who didn’t exercise at all. And when you throw some strength workouts and flexibility training into your workout mix, you will see not only physical improvements, but you may feel more mentally and emotionally grounded as well.

So, instead of thinking of your workout in terms of time spent, concentrate on the quality and variety of the work.

Yes, cardio burns more energy/calories while performing the activity (i.e. running, spinning, etc.), but toning has an amazing afterburn effect. Not only do you expend energy/calories while exercising with weights and resistance, but because your body needs energy to repair and build muscle, it continues to scorch calories for many hours after you finish your favorite toning workout. The truth is, once you get off the treadmill or come back from your run, your body doesn’t use up too many more calories.

If you combine a healthy balance of cardio, strength and stretching workouts, your heart and bones will remain strong, your clothes will fit better (muscle gives us shape, while also burning more calories than fat at rest) and your joints will feel flexible and fluid. As an example, a 20-minute HIIT workout paired with one of our 10-minute stretch Add-ons (check out the new 10-minute Add-ons, as well as other 10-minute workouts, in the Moms Into Fitness Studio) will give you a well-rounded 30-minute fat-blasting, mood-lifting, workout right at your fingertips. To round out the rest of your week, be sure to get in a session of your favorite type of moderate steady state cardio, such as 20 to 30 minutes of walking, swimming or jogging (or any other type of cardio that allows you to carry on a conversation), and another strength training session or two.

By replacing “No pain, no gain,” with “Quality over quantity,” you may start to see and feel more positive results from your workouts even sooner. When we take the time to listen to our bodies, add variety into our routines and concentrate on feeling the mind-muscle connection (rather than the pain after an extra-long and intense workout), we experience exercise in a completely new and satisfying way. Exercise doesn’t have to be punishing, grueling and exhausting. And learning to love the joy of movement, rather than the agony of overexertion, is worth the effort required to modify those overused and overworked training expressions.

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