The Science of Slim: Exercise For Only 20 Minutes a Week?

Author Jonathan Bailor makes a bold statement: that you only need 20 minutes of exercise per week to boost metabolism and burn fat. Yep, just 20 minutes, nothing more … and guess what? The science appears to support this.

His book “The Smarter Science of Slim” (affiliate link) covers over 1,000 studies in an attempt to break down the real facts behind living well through proper nutrition, but also through exercise. I recently gave Bailor’s book my strongest endorsement and considering I’m rather stingy with my endorsements, that’s saying something.

The Program

Bailor suggests that you do an intense HIIT-style training on a Spin bike or by doing eccentric muscle stimulation to get to the deepest muscle fibers in your joints.  What this means is pedal intensely while standing up on a Spin bike for 30 second intervals, and do four or five total with recovery in between.  The bike should be set so it’s hard to pedal and you’re out of breath and can’t do anymore by the end of the 30 seconds.

For eccentric muscle stimulation, think of it as the “down.” When you do a bicep curl, you contract the muscle by lifting the weight in your hand to your shoulder.  For eccentric, this would be the return of that weight.  Bailor actually only stipulates four moves as being necessary: a leg press, a seated row, a chest press, and an overhead shoulder press (he has four complimentary at-home moves, too).

Doing this training will kick the body’s metabolism up a notch because you’re placing such a high demand on it.  The result is increased muscle, fat loss, and more energy.  The science backs this all up.

BUT … I know what you’re thinking: what about cardio, regular weight training, all the other stuff we’re supposed to be doing?

According to Bailor, an active lifestyle will keep you fit, healthy, and limber, but over-training can actually backfire so that you gain more weight.  For instance, if you do a lot of cardio, your body will “eat” calorie-hogging muscle first and preserve it’s fat stores because it thinks it’s in starvation mode.  You will actually slow your metabolism down as your body tries to conserve energy because you’re placing greater demands on it.

Let me say that again: over-exercising forces your body to conserve fat and breakdown muscle, the exact opposite of what you want.

An Active Lifestyle

Bailor does say (in one paragraph) that 20 minutes should not be all the activity you do each week.  He is actually an advocate of 10,000 steps a day and he strongly urges you to keep moving and doing activities that you enjoy.  So if you like to run, keep running, but don’t think that training for a marathon will help you lose weight (it won’t).  If you like to take a Zumba class for the energy, then by all means keep attending, but going six times per week is overkill and could very well leave you up a dress size, not down.

His mantra is “smarter science,” using what we know (via over 1,000 studies) to maximize our bodies’ metabolism.  A healthy metabolism means you’ll be lean, energetic, and strong.  I think it’s safe to say we all want that.

What do you think?  Are you skeptical of only 20 minutes per week?  Would you try it?  Do you think heavy bouts of cardio and/or weight training has helped you in the past?