Mastering Workout Schedules How Often Should You Exercise?

workout frequency

Fast Facts

Experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly

Balance, cardio, flexibility, and strength training are key components of a well-rounded fitness routine

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Tabata are highly effective cardio workouts

Incorporating rest days into your workout schedule is crucial for muscle recovery and preventing injuries.

How often you should work out depends on various factors like your activity level, age, fitness goals, and more. If you are new to working out, you might wonder, “How long do I need to exercise?” and “Is working out three days enough?”

Generally, experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, which breaks down to about 30 minutes daily, five days a week. Alternatively, you can aim for 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, which is about 25 minutes daily, three days a week.

The ideal workout plan includes a mix of cardio and strength training spread throughout the week. The best weekly workout schedule for you is one you can stick to consistently.

Read on to learn how often you should work out, depending on your goals, and what exercises you can include during the week.

Total Physical Activity Recommendations per Week

Staying physically active supports good health by improving fitness and reducing the risk of several chronic illnesses. Different types of physical activity include:

  • Balance: These exercises may prevent falls and reduce fracture risk. Examples include standing on one leg and practicing tai chi.
  • Cardio: Also known as aerobic or endurance exercise, cardio increases your breathing and heart rate, strengthening your heart and lungs and potentially lowering heart disease risk. Exercises include biking, jogging, running, swimming, and walking.
  • Flexibility: Stretching your muscles increases agility and range of motion. Yoga is an excellent way to improve flexibility.
  • Strength Training: This helps build and maintain muscle mass. Examples include lifting weights, using resistance bands, or doing body-weight exercises like push-ups and squats.

You can mix these exercises throughout the week. For instance, you might jog or run for 25 minutes three days per week and add two or more weight-lifting days. Incorporate a light stretching routine after workouts to enhance flexibility.

How often you work out depends on your fitness experience and available time. If you’re new to exercise, start with small goals. For example, reduce your sitting time by walking before or after meals.

Ultimately, the best workout routine is one you enjoy. Finding pleasure in your workouts will keep you coming back and lead to better results.

Strength vs. Cardio Recommendations

Varying your workouts during the week is essential. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends focusing on both cardio and strength training exercises. Aim for two or three days of cardio and spend the other two or three days doing strength training.

If you can’t fit five workouts into your week, combine cardio and strength training. For example, go for a 20-minute jog followed by 25 minutes of strength training.

Strength Training

Strength training helps keep your muscles strong. The CDC advises at least two days of strength training per week. Examples include:

  • Body-weight exercises (e.g., crunches, push-ups, sit-ups, planks)
  • Gardening
  • Using resistance bands
  • Weight lifting
  • Yoga

Incorporate different types of strength training exercises that target all major muscle groups, including the abdomen, arms, back, chest, hips, legs, and shoulders.

Cardio

Cardio exercises are typically more intense. Choose activities you enjoy. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and Tabata are some of the most effective cardio workouts. HIIT involves quick, intense workouts, while Tabata is a more intense HIIT version, consisting of 20 seconds of activity followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated for eight rounds.

Other cardio exercises include

  • Biking
  • Doing yard work (e.g., pushing a lawnmower)
  • Jogging
  • Playing sports (e.g., basketball, tennis)
  • Running
  • Swimming and water aerobics
  • Walking

If you work out three days a week, intensify your cardio workouts. Conversely, opt for low-intensity cardio if you exercise for longer periods.

How Much You Should Work Out Based on Your Goals

Incorporating both cardio and strength training into your workout regimen is crucial, whether your goal is to build strength, lose weight, or maintain good health.

General Health

The CDC advises 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. This could be split into five 30-minute workouts per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly.

Examples include

  • Briskly walking for 30 minutes daily, five days a week, with two or more days of strength training.
  • Jogging or running for 25 minutes, three days a week, with two or more days of strength training.
  • Combining moderate and vigorous exercises on two or more days a week.

Strength and Muscle Gain

For strength training, you can do lower, upper, or total body workouts. Results only appear in the muscles you work on. Try two 30-minute full-body workouts, including compound movements like deadlifts, pull-ups, push-ups, and squats.

If you have more days for strength training, add lower and upper body days. Lower body exercises include deadlifts, lunges, and squats, while upper body exercises include chest flies, chest presses, and push-ups. Mix in bicep and tricep moves.

Aim to increase the volume of your sessions over time by increasing weights and repetitions to build lean muscle mass and strength.

Weight Loss

People typically lose weight by creating a calorie deficit, combining physical activity with a balanced, reduced-calorie diet. You may need to increase exercise duration or frequency to lose weight. Exercising 60 minutes daily, five times a week, may help with weight loss.

On average, a 154-pound person burns the following calories in 60 minutes:

  • 280 calories briskly walking
  • 330 calories dancing
  • 510 calories swimming laps
  • 590 calories jogging or running at five miles per hour

The calories burned depend on exercise intensity and weight. Work with a healthcare provider to create a weight-loss plan that works for you.

Is It OK to Work Out Every Day?

It’s okay to work out daily as long as you don’t overexert yourself. Signs of over-exercising include decreased performance, anxiety, tiredness, and overuse injuries. Taking one or two rest days allows your body to rebuild and recover.

Use rest days to:

  • Do light stretches and foam rolling
  • Get extra sleep
  • Hydrate
  • Prepare healthy meals
  • Take a stroll around the block

Rest days help you prepare for your next workout. Get to know your resting heart rate (RHR), which is typically 60-100 beats per minute. A lower RHR indicates a stronger heart. Fitness smartwatches can track your heart rate and RHR, helping you determine when you’re fully recovered and ready for your next workout.


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