To get the most out of your workout routine, how long you exercise can be just as important as how often you workout. And there’s no doubt that what you’re doing during your sweat session matters, too.
Whether you’re looking to stay healthy, lose weight, build muscles in your arms, or anything in between, choosing an effective workout routine is key to crushing your goals (rest-time included). As a bonus: The benefits of working out include lessening the risk of stroke, hypertension, dementia, type 2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, and some cancers.
Thankfully, there are a variety of avenues like gyms, boutique fitness classes, and personal training to help adult-age individuals achieve the 150 to 300 minutes of physical activity per week recommended by the The Center for Disease Control.
“It is important to alternate between high impact and low impact activities to allow the body proper rest,” says Becca Pham, an instructor at 305 Fitness in Boston. High impact exercise indicates both feet are off the ground. This includes running, high knees, and burpees. Low impact workouts include walking, cycling, and kayaking.
For Cardiovascular Fitness: 30 to 60 minutes, 3 days per week
“For aerobic training, daily exercise should be appropriate for most individuals,” says Pham, who recommends 30 to 60 minutes every day to maintain good cardiovascular health. But it’s important to not overdo it if your body needs a break and you’re prone to getting hurt. According to the CDC, the 150 to 300 minutes of recommended physical activity paced across at least three days a week can reduce the risk of injury. Too much exercise can cause extreme fatigue, pain, prolonged soreness, and impaired immune system.
For Building Muscle: 2 to 3 days per week
To build muscle, Phan recommends working out 2 to 3 days per week if you’re performing total body workouts. If your workout schedule allows exercise four days a week, opting for upper and lower body split workouts — two times a week per body part — might be your best bet. “Working muscle groups multiple times a week ensures that you are challenging your body enough to make progress,” she says.
For strength training, Pham says individuals should rest for at least two days before exercising the same muscle group. “During resistance training, muscle breakdown occurs. Rest is important for appropriate muscle rebuilding and growth for strength gains,” she says. “Overtraining or excessive overloading can result in injury to muscles and joints! We want to avoid working a muscle to failure—our muscles will then not be able to perform work but also will take longer to heal, leading to burnout and decreased performance.”
For Weight Loss: 150 minutes per week
According to the CDC, being physically active helps adults sleep better and prevent unhealthy weight gain. Both cardio and strength training can contribute to dropping unwanted fat. Individuals should aim to lose no more than two pounds per week for safe and effective weight loss, says Pham. “For realistic weight loss, The American College of Sports Medicine recommends burning 300 to 400 calories per workout session with a minimum of exercise three days a week, but ideally daily,” she says.
According to the CDC, most adults will require more than 150 minutes of activity each week to lose weight and keep it off. Appropriate nutrition is as important as the exercise component, if not more crucial to successful weight loss, too.
Whether your workout routine is at a pro or beginner level, knowing how long and how often you should workout is imperative to reaching your fitness goals. And don’t forget to adequately rest in between! It can make all the difference.
By Hilary Sheinbaum