People exercise for different purposes. Some wish to lose weight and get more fit; others just want to stay healthy, while some others try to get bulkier and gain muscle. Different aims require different paths and exercises. But the important question is, how often should you work out to reach these goals?
Regardless of your fitness goal, you should work out for at least 2-3 days per week and 4-5 days ideally. Remember to put in both cardio and strength training in your workout sessions to reap its benefits. The duration of each session should be 30-45 minutes, depending on its intensity.
Keep reading the rest of this article to learn more about your workout frequency. We’ll tell you how many days a week you should exercise to reach your goals and why you need rest days.
Is It Okay To Work Out Every Day?
Most people think they have to work out every day to see their desired results. It’s a common belief that a daily workout is a key to a healthy life. However, many people don’t know how it affects their bodies and health as a whole. Everyday workout might not be a good idea in the short and long term, but why?
It’s not a good idea to work out every day because your body needs time for recovery, building back the torn muscle tissues, and restoring its glycogen. Besides, daily workouts can increase the risk of hitting a plateau in your progression, and your performance may drop. It also increases the risk of injury.
While your prime goal of exercising may be losing weight or gaining muscle mass, and staying healthy, there’s much more to consider.
When you work out, you burn up the glycogen stored in muscles to fuel the required energy for exercising. Besides, your muscle tissue fibers tear apart during a workout (especially strength training), and that’s fine.
But if you work out daily, you won’t give time to your body to restore those depleted reserves and build back the torn muscle fibers. This recovery time is essential for your body, and skipping it won’t speed up your progression.
On the contrary, your performance declines significantly by everyday workout because your body can’t afford it. Its energy stores aren’t fully replaced yet, and muscles are still recovering from the previous session. You may feel tired and unable to exercise as you planned, and you may even end up hitting a plateau.
Such vigorous daily workouts can also put you at an increased risk of injuries like tendonitis or tendinosis, which may take weeks – if not months – to recover, and you’ll be out of exercise for this period.
How Often Should You Work Out?
The exact amount of time you should spend in each workout session and its frequency depends on several factors, including your fitness goal, activity level, available equipment, injuries, and more.
Here, we’ve determined the number of workout days according to three fitness goals: general health, losing weight, and bulking up.
Working Out For General Health
Most people work out to enjoy its benefits – to have a healthier body and a better mood. Even for that aim, training once or twice a week won’t be enough.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio activity per week would keep you and your heart healthy. It equals 30 minutes of moderate cardio for five days or 25 minutes of vigorous cardio for three days a week.
Most training experts also agree that you need to work out at least three times a week to see its result and stay fit and healthy. That’s the least amount of time, but you can ideally increase it to four or five days in a week.
If your busy lifestyle or time constraints don’t allow you to work out more days, just stick to the three-day goal but try to exercise for about 45 minutes in each session.
Since you work out in fewer sessions during the week, it’s recommended to do a mix of strength training and cardio in each session. For instance, you can go for 20 minutes of jogging and 25 minutes of weight training. Circuit workouts or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are also great to burn a lot in a short time.
However, if you’re not so busy and can pursue a four or five-day workout plan, you can make each session shorter – at least 30 minutes – and less intense. For example, you can do cardio on two or three days and go for strength training on other days.
Remember that the key to overall health is to include both cardio and strength training in your workout plan. If it’s hard for you to mix them, a good rule of thumb is to split your workout time during the week as 50-50 between cardio and strength training.
You don’t need complex equipment for cardio; simple running or jump rope is great. Here is a great skipping rope you can purchase on Amazon for doing cardio:
Working Out To Lose Weight
If you exercise to lose weight, the exact amount of workout time depends on how fast you want to see its results. However, it’s recommended not to lose more than 1 to 2 pounds each week.
That said, to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than what you receive. So, obviously, going on a balanced diet can significantly help with it. But that’s just part of the solution, and to continue the weight-loss trend, you have to do physical activity.
If you want to see measurable results, you must commit to both your diet and your workout plan and don’t forget that losing weight is a long-term process and won’t happen overnight.
For losing weight, you should work out at least three days a week and gradually increase your sessions up to five days a week. Your workout plan must be a combination of cardio, strength training, core workout, and stretching.
Again, the key to a healthy weight loss process is to combine cardio and strength training. While cardio increases your heart health and burns a lot of calories, strength training leads to building up more muscle mass, increasing your metabolism rate.
You can start with light-weighed dumbbells like the one below and gradually increase the weight:
Or use a mini band resistance loop or TRX straps like the ones you can buy on Amazon:
So, for maximum weight loss, you should work out five days a week, including three days of moderate cardio plus full-body workout and two days of vigorous cardio. Each moderate activity session should take about 30 minutes, and the vigorous ones should be about 25 minutes.
Tips to remember:
- Give variety to your workout intensity with HIIT and moderate-intensity exercises.
- Do different types of cardio during the week, such as jogging in a park, swimming, biking, or running on a treadmill.
- Take advantage of circuit training when you’re doing strength training. In this method, you perform a series of exercises with no rest, and at the end of each set, you take 30-60 seconds of rest. Then repeat the set for another two or three rounds.
- Don’t forget to devote at least two days a week to rest. This time is vital for your body’s recovery.
Working Out For Muscle Gain
Working out to gain more muscle mass and get bulkier is more nuanced than the two fitness goals mentioned above. The vital thing for growing lean muscle is to find the optimal balance between cardio and strength training.
Too much exercising or “overtraining” can lead to a decline in your performance or even hitting a plateau. Therefore, your ability to work out and reach your training goals decreases, and you may even lose some muscle.
On the other hand, if you don’t work out enough and don’t do it with the right intensity, you won’t bulk up as you wish, and your muscle gain will be unnoticeable.
Regarding cardio training, it’s generally recommended to include two to three days of short but high-intensity sessions in your workout plan. For example, you can do a 25-minute HIIT.
For strength training, at least three days per week is recommended. However, the amount of days you need to dedicate to strength training varies based on your present fitness level.
For example, beginners should devote 2 to 3 days of their week to strength training, and each session must include a full-body workout. For a person at the intermediate level, this amount is 3 to 4 days per week which has to be split up by body parts or upper/lower body.
At the advanced level, 4 to 5 days of strength training per week is recommended, splitting up like three days ‘on’ and one day ‘off.’ Some exercisers structure their week as two days upper body, two days lower body, and three days of cardio (or rest). So, their upper/lower body parts have enough time for recovery.
|Fitness level||Training Frequency|
|Beginner||2 to 3 days strength training (full-body) + 2 days cardio per week|
|Intermediate||3 to 4 days of strength training (split into upper/lower body) + 3 days cardio per week|
|Pro||4 to 5 days of strength training (suggested structure: 3 days on,1 day off) + 3 days cardio per week|
Sometimes you’ll notice a reduction in your muscle gain rate, which can mean hitting a plateau. Training your body with the same exercises and weights for a long period leads to your body’s adaptation to the sessions. So, you need to challenge it by changing up your workout sessions.
For example, you can add more weight to your lifting or increase the number of sets and reps. Besides, you should make changes in your exercises and replace them with some new ones.
Another vital point for muscle-gaining is to rest enough and give your body time to recover.
Otherwise, you’ll hit a plateau and may even lose some muscle mass over time. So, make sure to rest for one or two days a week or do some yoga and stretching on these days.
While the exact amount of time you should devote to working out in a week depends on your fitness goal and activity level, a combination of cardio and strength training is vital for reaching your goals. Aim for three days a week at minimum, but increase your sessions up to 5 days if possible to see results.
Last update on 2023-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API