I’ve often been asked “how long should my workouts be?” – and truth be told, it’s a question I’ve wondered myself.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on this recently. I found it depends on your current fitness level, your fitness goals, and the type of training you’re doing. Let’s explore this in more depth.
How Long Your Workouts Should Be – For General Health
The American Heart Association recommends that most adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise, spread over most, if not all, days of the week, in combination with moving more and sitting less in general.
If we break this down into, say, 6 days a week, that’s 25 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a day, or 12.5 minutes of high intensity exercise a day.
(For reference, moderate intensity exercise is exercise at a level where you can have a short conversation with the person beside you, but feel challenged. High intensity exercise is an intensity where you can speak a sentence or two but feel borderline uncomfortable.)
Now, disclaimer: these are bare minimum recommendations. In other words, for good health, we need to be aiming for a longer duration than this per week.
30 minutes a day, 6 days a week, would give you 180 minutes of moderate exercise a week, reducing your risk of chronic preventable disease and improving your health.
How Long Your Workouts Should Be – If You’re a Beginner
If you’re a beginner, you might find that your exercise tolerance is quite low.
That is TOTALLY okay. We all have to start somewhere.
Make sure to talk to your doctor about the right type and intensity of exercise for you, and instead of focusing on how much you should do, instead just do as much as you can and improving gradually.
I remember my very first fitness journey as an adult. I’d never exercised before since I was a kid.
I bought a Tae Bo DVD and only made it through the first 12 minutes of the video before I fell onto the floor, sobbing for breath.
It felt discouraging at first – but the next day, I showed up again. This time, I was able to get through 15 minutes.
I’ll never forget the first time I’d made it through the whole 45 minute video. I was so pumped and proud of myself.
It will be the same for you. Start where you are and build.
30 minutes of moderate activity should be doable and effective for most beginners – but of course, we’re all different.
Do what’s right for you and your body, and don’t overexert yourself!
If you aim to improve your past workout duration by just 3% each time, you’ll gradually be able to build up your level of fitness to 30 minutes of activity or more each day.
Sometimes, the best way to eat a whole elephant is one bite at a time. Be kind to your body. Challenge it – but don’t overdo it. This way, you’ll be able to come back again tomorrow.
How Long Your Workout Should Be Depends On the Type of Training You Do
Not all workouts are equal! Different workout types and intensities have different recommended workout durations.
For example, if you do HIIT cardio, which is training at maximum intensity, you can only sustain it for a very short session of between 10 and 20 minutes.
A steady state aerobics class, on the other hand, is a moderate intensity workout, and usually goes for 60-70 minutes.
If you lift weights, it can take up to 30 to 60 minutes to complete a workout, depending on your fitness levels, how you train (and crowd levels at the gym, if we’re being honest).
A yoga class can take up to 90 minutes, so that you can warm up your muscles before getting into the deep stretches.
How Long Your Workouts Should Be If You Want to Lose Weight
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends working out for 250 minutes a week for sustained weight loss i.e. losing weight and keeping it off for good.
It’s also important to consider the kinds of training you’re doing. When losing weight, you won’t be working out at the same intensity every day.
A good weight loss program combines high intensity workouts with moderate intensity workouts and recovery workouts, or active rest days, so an example of 250 minutes a week may look like:
MON: Moderate intensity workout – 50 minutes
TUES: High intensity workout – 25 minutes
WED: Moderate intensity workout – 50 minutes
THURS: High intensity workout – 25 minutes
FRI: Moderate intensity workout – 50 minutes
SAT: Active rest day – 30 minutes
SUN: Active rest day – 30 minutes
The answer to the question “how long should my workouts be” is as open ended as “how long is a piece of string?” It really depends on your current fitness level, your fitness goals, and the type of training you’re doing.
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