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Can You Lose Weight with 15 Minute Workouts? Are Short Intense Workouts Enough to Change Your Body?

Read Time • 5 Min
  • Category Fitness
  • Membership Free


There are a lot of different companies out there that like to claim that their products or workouts are miraculously going to change your body. One that's popular at the moment is the idea that you can get a super lean, super fit physique with less than 15 minutes a day.

They show off images of - sometimes very muscular, sometimes spookily lean - people who have been airbrushed to within an inch of their lives, who have often obviously undergone multiple plastic surgeries to modify their bodies, and boast that it's the result of workouts that take less time than it takes to brew a cup of coffee.

Whether promoting photoshopped images, plastic surgeries, and representation of only one type of body shape when in reality healthy comes in many different shapes and sizes is ethical - that is a whole different discussion (seriously, don't get us started unless you're okay with some highly fueled ranting). But what you guys want to know is whether or not there is any merit to these claims; can you really get the low body fat percentage and/or lean muscle mass presented in those images, with just short workouts?

Our opinion is not completely black and white, but we believe that the answer is no, you can't become wildly fit with workouts that take less than 15 minutes, several times a week. While those short, intense routines definitely have their place in a weekly workout plan, we don't believe it's fair to mislead people, or to set them up for failure & an imbalanced training style, by saying that less than fifteen minutes is going to lead you to a healthy, lean body.

Short workouts are far, far better than no workout at all, but if you're warming up and cooling down the way that you really ought to be in order to avoid injury, you're leaving yourself very little time to actually sweat. Let's say a workout is 15 minutes long (note that this is actually longer than the most of those programs boast, especially considering all of the "fluff" and empty conversation they add before, in between, and after all of the exercises they call "HIIT") - if you're doing the very bare minimum 3 minute warm up and cool down (both should be longer, especially as the intensity of a workout increases), that leaves you with 9 minutes to exercise. Again, way better than nothing...But, even if you're going at full intensity for that nine minutes, the vast majority of people will have burned under 150 calories in that 15 minute session. 150 Calories is incredibly easy to eat. That's a light snack! A beer or glass of wine.

Beyond the fact that the caloric deficit is small enough that it's very easily neutralized, that's just not enough time to get in well rounded strength training for muscles that are free of imbalances & vulnerabilities, enough cardio for a healthy heart, enough stretching for healthy muscles, ligaments, joints, and range of motion, and so on.

Especially for someone trying to lose weight, these kinds of workouts are less than ideal. At a rate of a caloric deficit of even 150 calories (likely an overestimation, assuming a very high rate of burn of 10 cals per minute, including warm up & cool down), and four of those sessions a week - which is the absolute maxiumum that you can safely do the high intensity interval training shown in those infomercials, you're still going to be burning only 2,400 extra calories a month - not even enough to lose a full pound. Slow change is awesome - even ideal - but it doesn't have to be that slow. Additionally, if you're overweight there may be legitimate health reasons for you not to do incredibly high impact routines, until your fitness improves.

In terms of maintaining a certain body fat percentage, weight, or fitness level, those short workouts make more sense in the way that they can allow a person to "coast" for a while, but eventually you're going to see a slow, gradual drop off in both endurance and strength, and, a rise in scale weight if you're not being very careful about your diet. Personally, we love food, and we also enjoy our cheat meals. If it means adding some extra minutes onto our workouts each day or week in order to not have to scrimp on flavors, to go to bed hungry, or have to say no to extras like beer at a party or lasagna at Grandma's house, we're fine with that.

Long story short; we love short workouts, and we offer plenty of them. Short, intense routines far surpass no workout. With that said, we also don't want you to expect that just fifteen minutes - or less - is the most effective way to get or maintain a healthy, lean body.

If those short workouts are all you have time for, don't let our opinion discourage you. Try doing several of our short workouts periodically throughout your day to make a bigger dent in expenditure. And make an effort to fit in more than just HIIT style workouts - there's more to fitness that just full out cardio. Lastly, don't fool yourself into thinking that those short routines are a free pass to eat whatever you like - this is true of all exercise, but especially exercise that's less than 15 minutes in duration.