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 Brief Exercise Sessions For Time-Pressured People  
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Keeping Fit by . View all columns in series

After only 8 weeks (8 hours) of training the 59 men and women made significant improvements in their body composition and physical fitness. On average, they lost 4 pounds of fat, added 2 pounds of muscle, increased their overall muscle strength by 23 percent and improved their cardiovascular endurance by 12 percent.

The training program consisted of three strength exercises and 15 minutes of aerobic activity. The participants did one set each of leg presses for the front and rear thigh muscles, bench presses for the chest, shoulder and triceps muscles, and compound rows for the back and biceps muscles. Each exercise was performed for 8 to 12 repetitions and required about one minute for completion. The participants also worked their way up to 15 minutes of continuous cycling or stepping to round out the 20-minute training session.

Like our research team, the program participants were very pleased with their body composition changes and physical fitness improvements. In fact, over 90 percent of the participants committed to continue their hour-per-week exercise program, and many have convinced family members and friends to do the same.

Originally, we believed that brief exercise sessions would be better than no physical activity, and this proved to be a correct assumption. However, the program participants did much better than we anticipated, indicating that 20-minute exercise sessions may be highly effective for enhancing body composition and physical fitness.

Don't let the tyranny of time prevent you from enjoying the benefits of a simple, short, and successful exercise program. Consult with a personal trainer or fitness instructor in your area to design a basic but brief exercise program that will enable you to establish a physically-active lifestyle.

Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA., and author of several books on fitness including Building Strength and Stamina, and Strength Training Past 50.


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Ballor, D., Katch, V., Becque, M., et al. (1980). Resistance weight training during caloric restriction enhances lean body weight maintenance. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 47: 19-25.

Blessing, D., Stone, M., Byrd, R. (1987). Blood lipid and hormonal changes from jogging and weight training of middle-aged men. Journal of Applied Sports Science Research, 1: 25-29.

Boyden, T., Parmenter, R., Going, S. et al. (1993). Resistance exercise training is associated with decreases in serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in premenopausal women. Archives of International Medicine, 153: 97-100.

Brehm, B. and Keller, B. (1990). Diet and exercise factors that influence weight and fat loss. IDEA Today, 8: 33-46.

Butts, N. and Price, S. (1994). Effects of a 12-Week Weight Training Program on the body composition of women over 30 years of age. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 8 (4): 265-269.

Campbell, W., Crim, M., Young, V. and Evans, W. (1994). Increased energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in older adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 60: 167-175.

Colletti, L., Edwards, J., Gordon, L., et al. (1989). The effects of muscle-building exercise on bone mineral density of the radius, spine and hip in young men. Cal Tissue Inter. 45: 12-14.

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 About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the......moreWayne Westcott PhD
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