While many of us are asking "what happens when you don't exercise," some are getting out there and doing it. Those are the ones that will reap the benefits of exercising. So you're ready to start exercising? Great! Now you may be asking yourself, "How many times a week should I workout?"
How Many Times A Week Should I Workout?
In general, you should work out three to five times per week to maintain fitness. If you are trying to lose weight or get into shape, you will have to exercise a little more.
If you are brand new to exercise, then the addition of any new activity is going to be good for you.
Before we get into more detail about "how many times a week should I workout," let's talk a little about the different types of exercise that you should be doing every week.
What Type Of Exercise Should I Be Doing?
According to Harvard Medical School, there are four main types of exercise that you should be doing every week: aerobics, strength training, flexibility, and balance. I would argue that core work is the fifth type of exercise that you should also be doing.
Get your cardio on!
The first type of exercise that you should be doing every week is cardio. Cardio is any aerobic exercise that gets your heart rate up for an extended period. Some examples of cardio are walking, running, swimming, spinning, kickboxing, basketball, dancing, HIIT classes, and step aerobics.
Cardio will give your heart and lungs a workout, and it will increase endurance. But it does so much more!
Cardio also lowers blood pressure, relaxes blood vessel walls, lowers blood sugar levels, burns body fat, boosts mood, reduces inflammation, and raises good HDL cholesterol. If you combine cardio with weight loss, it can also lower your bad LDL cholesterol levels.
If you do cardio consistently over time, it will reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease, breast and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and depression.
For the best results, you should do cardio at least three times per week.
Stronger means better
We lose muscle mass as we age. That's just a fact. However, strength training can build that muscle back.
If you do strength training regularly, it will help you to feel more confident in doing everyday tasks like gardening, carrying groceries, or lifting heavy objects around the house.
It's true that strengthening your muscles will make you stronger. But working out with weights can do so much more than that. Strength training also lowers blood sugar levels, stimulates bone growth, Improves posture and balance, assists in weight loss, and reduces pain and stress in your joints and lower back.
You can do strength training with weights, machines, exercise bands, or even just your own body weight. Some examples of strength training exercises include push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and pull-ups.
You should do strength training exercises at least twice per week.
You have to stretch
Flexibility is another thing that we lose as we age. That's why stretching is so important for adults. If you don't stretch, your muscles and tendons will shorten, which means that they won't function properly. That could lead to pain and muscle cramps, strains, joint pain, muscle damage, and falling.
However, if you stretch regularly your muscles will be longer and more flexible. Stretching increases your range of motion, reduces pain, and reduces the risk for injury.
You should do some stretching at the end of every workout. That means that you will work on your flexibility three to five times per week. Try to hold each static stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. If you're not very flexible, you can use a stretching strap to assist you with the stretches.
It's worth noting that stretching is most effective when you warm up your muscles first. You won't get much benefit from trying to stretch cold muscles. Instead, you want to do some sort of cardio for a few minutes first. This will get blood and oxygen to the muscles, making them more amenable to change.
How's your balance?
While we're talking about "how many times a week should I workout?" it's important that we mention balance work. Balance is another thing that we lose as we age. As our vision, inner ear, and leg muscles and joints break down with age we tend to lose balance. That can lead to falls and injury.
The good news is, you can prevent this by simply doing some balance exercises every week.
Tai chi and yoga are really good examples of balance exercises. These type of classes are popular at senior centers, but it's never too early to start working on your balance.
You can improve your balance by doing things like standing on one leg or using a balancing board.
Don't forget about your core!
In addition to cardio, strength training, balance, and flexibility work, it's also important that you work your core several times a week. Your core muscles are the muscles of your trunk, your abs, and back. You need a strong core for nearly every movement that you make.
Some examples of core exercises are planks, crunches, and Supermans. You can also do core exercises on a stability ball.
Core exercises don't have to take up a lot of time either. You can do them in just five minutes at the end of your workout.
Okay, So Then
How Many Times A Week Should I Workout?
According to the Mayo Clinic and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should do between 150 and 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity cardio. Or you can do 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobics.
In addition to the cardio, fitness guidelines also say that you should do strength training at least twice per week.
As we've already discussed, you also need to work on flexibility, balance, and your core every week. I know that seems like a lot of exercise every week, but if you work smart, you can combine all of it into just a few great workouts.
Your best bet is to do combination exercises that can incorporate all of the different types into one workout. HIIT workouts are a great example of that. With a HIIT workout, you get your cardio, strength training, balance, flexibility, and core work all in one quick one-hour workout.
When we're answering the question of "how many times a week should I workout?" it boils down to three to five times per week if you work smart. Each workout should be between 30 and 60 minutes in length.
While we're answering the question of "how many times a week should I workout?" there are a few other questions that always come up.
What is a combination workout?
Combination workouts incorporate both cardio and strength training in the same short workout. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a good example of a combination workout.
With this type of workout, you alternate between segments of cardio and segments of resistance training. Combination workouts burn more calories and are the most efficient way to workout.
If you have all day to spend at the gym, then you can do your workouts separately. But if you're like me and never have enough time in your day, you'll be better off doing a combination workout.
Should I do the same workout every day?
If you want to see changes in your body, then no, you shouldn't do the same exact workout every day.
One of the problems with doing the same workout every day is that your body will adapt to the work. It doesn't take long for your body to adapt to a workout either.
The best thing that you can do for your health is to cross-train. Cross-training means doing several different types of workouts. By constantly changing up your routines, your body can't adapt to the workload. That means that you will continue to see changes in your body like weight loss or strength gains.
Fitness plateaus happen when you repeat the same workout over and over. The best way to break through a plateau is to change things up. Try doing a completely different workout or change up the intensity.
An example of a crosstraining schedule
Monday: Running for 30 minutes followed by weight training for upper body
Tuesday: Swimming for 30 minutes followed by core work
Wednesday: Yoga or tai chi for 60 minutes
Thursday: 60-minute HIIT class
Friday: Spinning for 45 minutes followed by weight training for lower body
Sunday: Walking for 45 minutes followed by stretching
What about rest days? Are they important?
While we're answering the question of "how many times a week should I workout?" it's important that we talk about rest days. Believe it or not, rest days are just as important as your workouts.
The total process of building strength, endurance, and muscle includes resting. When you do strength training, you are breaking down the muscle. You are creating tiny microscopic tears in the muscle. Your body needs rest to heal those tears.
Rest days allow your muscles, bones, nerves, and connective tissue time to repair.
If you don't take at least one day a week to rest, then you are much more likely to suffer from overuse injuries.
The Bottom Line
Whether you're a newbie taking your first steps toward fitness or you're an exercise fanatic trying to optimize your results, a well-rounded routine is essential. And that includes aerobics, strength training, balance, flexibility, and core work.
Your best bet is to find workouts that incorporate all five types of exercise into one routine. That way you get the best bang for your buck.
As a general rule, you should work out three to five times per week. You can work out more often than that, but it's essential that you take at least one day of rest every week.
Now that we've answered the question of "how many times a week should I workout?" we want to hear from you! Let us know what you think in the comments section below. And share with our readers if you have any other great tips for newbies.