Trend alert: Classes at many gyms are shrinking from 60 to 30 minutes
It’s never been cooler to cut your workout short.
Strapped for time and with smart straps on their wrists, gym-goers are flocking to 30-minute exercise classes. The benefits? More free time, more diversity in exercise and a more efficient workout. Also: less dread.
Ali Spiro, a 26-year-old healthcare consultant from San Francisco, switched from longer classes to half-hour workouts this year “because it’s less of a burden,” she says. “I go (to the gym) more, because it fits into literally every single day. There is no excuse not to go.”
In fact, both boutique studios and national gym chains are making sure exercisers run out of excuses.
Gold’s Gym, which has 150 corporate locations, will begin to roll out shorter classes starting Sept. 1. Its new 30-minute “Burn” classes are part of the gym’s Gold’s Studio program, which currently is available in 33 locations. Shortening class time is “something we’ve been focusing on,” says Aaron Cave, senior director of group training, adding that their members “want to get their workout in and get out,” while tracking progress on wearables like Apple watches and Fitbits.
High intensity interval training workouts ushered in the shorter class time, and the trend has now taken flight with pilates, yoga, and classes focused specifically on abs and glutes.
“Historically, classes were about an hour in length, primarily because many of them were aerobics-based,” says Carl Helmle III, vice president of training at DavidBartonGym, which has 12 U.S. locations. In the last few years, however, classes have changed to account for trendy, high intensity interval training workouts (commonly called HIIT) that usually involve sprints, weights, jumps and short breaks. “By nature, with that type of workout, there are (shorter) lengths of classes,” says Helmle.
Cycling is jumping on the trend, too. Indoor spin classes traditionally were 45 minutes, but for spandex-clad bikers burning their quads on a stationary bike today, “30 minutes might be perfect for an exerciser who doesn’t love exercise,” says Ruth Zukerman, co-founder of the six-year-old Flywheel.
The studio has new half-hour Power 30 classes that began rolling out in March.
“If you’re looking for efficiency, this is the way to do it,” says Power 30 regular Andrew Klein, 50. “It’s often offered in the middle of the day. Get in, work out for 30 minutes, quickly shower, back to the office.”
Meanwhile, Crunch Fitness is shortening the time people spend in downward dog by offering 30-minute yoga express classes, and at 24 Hour Fitness short classes can be taken alone or paired with complementary classes.
“The 30-minute format is really great for us,” says Lashaun Dale, vice president for content and programming at 24 Hour Fitness. “It gives members more time and the ability to fit two different classes in 60 minutes — like cross training, and then recovery and regeneration programs.” 24 Hour Fitness, which has more than 400 locations, has implemented 30-minute cardio, strength and cross-training classes.
But shorter isn’t always better.
Gabby Cohen, vice president of brand strategy at SoulCycle, started to experiment with implementing shorter classes after a 2012 study in The American Journal of Physiology showed 60 minutes of exercise didn’t burn more fat than 30 minutes of exercise. But the experiment failed.
For SoulCycle riders — who often see the candlelit class as a therapy session in addition to a calorie-burning one– “they really felt like to get in and out with 45 minutes was much more appealing than the (same-priced) 30 minutes.”
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