Why Zoe Saldana's Easy-Sounding Workout Trick Is Actually Brilliant

Photo: Vianney Le Caer/REX/Shutterstock.
Zoe Saldana is truly a woman after our own heart: She hates diets but loves cooking with turmeric and ginger, she says in the June issue of Shape magazine. She's into rosé. And on top of all that, she says that she's not a huge fan of long workouts — in fact, she typically caps hers at just 20 minutes.
Specifically, she does 20 minutes of interval training, about three times a week: "I run in place for 30 seconds, then do squats, then carry a heavy medicine ball a few times in a row until I get my heart rate up," she explains.
In our world of indoor cycling sessions and hot yoga classes, which regularly clock in at 60 to 90 minutes, a 20-minute workout is a welcome rarity. And Saldana says it simply makes sense for her life. "Between travel, meetings, and shoots, schedules are rough for me," she tells Shape. "If I do a lot of cardio, it usually just means I’ll be dragging my feet for the rest of the day."
But short workouts can be just as effective as longer ones, and, in some cases, more effective. It all depends on how you use that time. "Interval training, if you're truly going to your all-out maximum during the working intervals, is incredibly effective in terms of training your heart — because you're demanding a lot of work from it and giving it just a short amount of time to recover, it becomes so much stronger and more efficient," says Anna Maltby, Refinery29's deputy editor of health & wellness and an ACE-certified personal trainer. "And it's great that she's combining cardio with strength-training during these interval workouts.
"Technically, you need 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise — so if this was all Saldana was doing, it wouldn't be quite enough to maintain good heart health, even if she was going as hard as possible," Maltby adds. "But considering how busy and active her job probably is, it's safe to assume she's getting a lot of movement in throughout the day in addition to her dedicated workout time, which is awesome — it all adds up."
If you're more of a dance cardio person or a marathon gym-goer, we totally get it. But Saldana's shorter workouts are a great reminder that you don't have to go overboard with your exercise if you're not into it. And you don't have to "feel bad" if you aren't hitting a PR every chance you get — the most important thing is to stay active and feel your best while you're at it.

More from Fitness

R29 Original Series