Some people say three workouts a week is fine, others recommend six – talk about confusing – just how often SHOULD we work out?
The answer? How often you should work out depends largely on your purpose for exercising, your fitness goals and (if your goals are appearance based) to a lesser extent, your current body composition and shape.
How Often to Work Out For General Wellbeing
There are plenty reasons to work out other than for specific fitness goals or appearance-related goals. Exercise is such an important part of our health, boosting our mood, improving our immune system, and preventing chronic disease.
For the general population, it’s recommended that adults get about 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, spread across most, if not all, days of the week.
That equals roughly 25 minutes of moderate activity 6 days a week. But this doesn’t necessarily mean working out 6 days a week. You could work out 3 days a week, and walk or do yoga the other 3.
Some other activities that aren’t “working out” but will keep you active on most days of the week include:-
- Going for a brisk walk in the park
- Playing a casual sport with friends
- Putting your stereo on and dancing to your favourite songs
- Working in your garden
- Incidental exercise, like walking to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and sitting less
- Doing strenuous housework and cleaning
- Running around on the playground with your kids
How Often to Work Out For Specific Fitness Goals
Ok, so we know that in general we need to be moving our bodies for 25 minutes most days of the week. But what if we have a specific fitness goal that we’re trying to achieve, like for example, training for a marathon, losing weight, getting stronger or improving our overall levels of fitness?
If your goal is to lean out or get strong, if you don’t want to lose a lot of body fat, focus on weight training.
Do 30 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week, with an additional 2 to 4 sessions of moderate cardiovascular activity. Make sure to also take an active rest day or two so that you give your muscles time to recover, and don’t train the same muscle group two days in a row.
For most beginners, I would write what’s called a two day split program. This would consist of two different workouts, alternating between them, aiming for 3 sessions a week with a day’s rest in between.
When you get a little more advanced, you can start bumping up the frequency of your workouts. However, when you’re just starting, 3 sessions per week is enough for building strength and weight loss.
If you also want to lose a lot of body fat, I recommend cardio training, at least 4 x 30 minute sessions a week, with 2 to 3 sessions of resistance training at moderate intensity. This of course depends on your current fitness and experience level.
What if you’re doing a specific kind of workout?
How often you work out also depends on the type of workouts you’re doing. You could probably do a low intensity yoga class every day. But if you’re doing, say, HIIT workouts, for example, more than 3 times a week is overdoing it.
If you’re doing fitness classes, like Body Pump, circuit training or boot camp, I’d recommend starting with 3 classes a week. Take an active recovery day between sessions to focus on something less intense, like a brisk walk, yoga, or LISS cardio.
For aerobics, kickboxing or another such moderate intensity cardio class, you could do this 4 or more days a week (depending on your current fitness level). But if you’re new to fitness, returning after a long break, or recovering from injury or pregnancy, start with two to three sessions a week.
Think about your current fitness level & lifestyle
Of course, all of this goes without saying that you need to remember your current lifestyle and fitness level.
You won’t stick with a workout schedule that’s just not realistic or sustainable. So, risk of injury aside, don’t go from no workouts to 2 daily fitness classes, 7 days a week.
Going from one extreme to the other is setting yourself up for injury, burnout, and feeling defeated.
Make sure whatever you decide to do fits in with your lifestyle, your circumstances and your budget. Start with 3 scheduled workouts a week, go for a brisk walk the other four days, and build slowly.
This quantity guideline also applies if you’re busy: don’t bite off more than you can chew too soon! There are lots of ways to add more movement to your day without having to schedule in extra exercise. There are ways to be active that involve family and friends so you just doesn’t feel consumed with workouts.
Always remember: fitness is meant to enrich your life, not to restrict it, take away from it, or dominate it.
The question of “how often should I be working out” isn’t an easily answered one, to be honest. Many factors like current fitness level, fitness goals, body composition, injuries/medical conditions and current lifestyle and budget play a part.
No matter your fitness or body composition goals, remember daily exercise is beneficial for more reasons than physical appearance. It boosts mood, productivity, your immune system, and your confidence, reduces your risk of chronic disease and just amps up your overall well-being.
For this reason, I recommend focusing on getting in moderate activity for at least 20 minutes every single day. As long as you’re moving, you’re well on your way to a healthier, fitter, stronger body for life.