One of the most common questions personal trainers hear is, “How long should I work out?”
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer. Your fitness goals, age, current health and how you prefer to exercise will dictate what is best.
Whether you are you looking to stay healthy, lose weight or build muscle, your workout schedule will be unique. The minimum guidelines for physical activity can help maintain health and combat the negative impacts of a sedentary lifestyle, but it takes more effort to lose weight and/or get fit.
The American College of Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control recommend that healthy adults ages 18 to 65 should participate in moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes five days per week or vigorous intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes three days each week.
And to lose weight and maintain it, you need to exercise at different intensity levels.
To lose weight at a healthy rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week, you need to burn 500 to 1,000 more calories than you consume each day. This works out to about three hours of rigorous exercise each week. How you break that up is your call.
High-intensity interval (HIIT) workouts last about 20 to 30 minutes and feel challenging. If you can complete HIIT training for an hour, you need to make the workout harder. You will burn more calories from excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) after successful HIIT training.
Use a heart-rate monitor to ensure you are reaching your target heart rate.
If your goal is to seriously build stronger muscles and bones, you need to work strength training into your schedule for 30 to 60 minutes, five days a week. Strength training supports joints, prevents injury and is beneficial for managing arthritis.
Because muscle mass decreases with age, it is important to incorporate regular resistance training. Even the American Heart Association recommends strength and resistance training at least twice per week or more to build and strengthen muscle.
It is also vital to make sure you are including cardio activity to maintain or improve your current level of aerobic fitness. Switching up your workout routines and lengths helps to fend off boredom and raise motivation.
Just as important are days scheduled to rest and recover to avoid injury or burnout.
Yes, you could sit on the sofa and recover, but an active recovery increases your body’s range of motion and decreases stress. For an active recovery workout, put in 30 to 45 minutes of easy walking, leisurely swimming or yoga.
Remember to stay hydrated and eat a healthy balanced diet.
And most importantly, it’s not so much the quantity of exercise, but the quality. Make the most of your workout and ask yourself, “Did I work hard?” and “Was my heart rate elevated?”
If you can answer yes, then you’re on the right track.