When it comes to weight loss, there are many different ways you can approach the process. You may be wondering how long you should work out for weight loss and what kind of exercise will help you get the results you desire.
You might think that a grueling, hour-long workout is going to be the best way to lose weight, but this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, most people who have tried this method have found that it does not produce lasting results and often leads to injury or burnout.
Instead, it’s important to find an exercise routine that works well with your schedule and allows you to maintain a healthy lifestyle without feeling like it’s taking over your life.
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How Long To Exercise For Weight Loss
Many people in our Start TODAY Facebook group are shocked to see that our monthly workout plans only call for a 20-minute workout each day. They often ask me if that’s enough time to see any significant changes in their bodies and make a dent in their weight-loss goal. Many of my private weight-loss clients also ask me what the ideal amount of time is for a workout.
First and foremost, I always stress that some movement is better than no movement. Even five minutes of activity has health benefits! So I discourage people from putting a time limit on an effective workout. This is a trap I see people fall into way too often. For example, telling yourself that if you can’t fit in a 30-minute walk, then you won’t walk at all, or if you can’t motivate yourself to do that 40-minute bootcamp then it’s not worth it to exercise.
That being said, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, per week. So 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week is the goal to aim for. But for most people, I don’t recommend starting with that goal from the get-go. Instead, work your way up gradually for a sustainable routine you’re more likely to stick to.
Lack motivation? Start with 5 minutes.
So much of establishing — and sticking to — a workout routine is mental. Choosing a workout length that is too ambitious can be daunting and make it hard to stay motivated. Plus, you’ll feel better about your body, boost your mood, and feel accomplished after just a few minutes of exercise. So I always advise people to start small. This is why I create so many five-minute workout plans and stretch routines for people to follow. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel after committing to just five minutes a day, and it will help you overcome the biggest hurdle — making exercise a habit. The most effective routine, that will show you results, is one you stick to consistently. So start there.
Ready to commit to a solid routine? Aim for 20 minutes a day.
If you have the time, I always start my clients at 20 minutes of movement per day. Initially, it doesn’t matter what type of movement: a walk, run, yoga, stretching, Pilates, core work, HIIT workouts — anything is great!
Bite off an exercise goal that you can chew — and chew it consistently.
Starting with 20 minutes gives you enough time to warm up and push yourself to your max effort before cooling down. Eventually, working up to 30 minutes a day is ideal, but my motto is that slow and steady wins the race! Bite off an exercise goal that you can chew — and chew it consistently.
After you’re able to commit to the 20 minutes of movement a day consistently for a few weeks, I then recommend fine tuning your exercise routine by focusing on your goals. Typically, my clients are stressed and holding onto fat in their midsection. So I recommend choosing a form of exercise that helps them de-stress. It may be going on a walk, sweating it out with a HIIT workout, or having some fun by doing some dance cardio. If toning is the goal, start to incorporate 20 minutes of strength training a few days each week.
Once 20 minutes of movement is a habit, make 30 minutes of strategic exercise the goal.
Once you’ve made 20-minute workouts a habit, you can start to increase the amount of time you’re exercising to that recommended 30 minutes a day.
Does thinking about committing to 30 minutes a day seem overwhelming? That’s OK. Following this two-step plan of attack will help you get there, First, starting with five minutes a day to prove to yourself that you can habitually exercise. Then, work on steadily increasing that workout time to 10 minutes, then 15, and so on. The gradual increase will have you hitting that 30-minute mark in no time. And don’t forget that three, ten-minute walks throughout the day or two, 15-minute strength sessions count!
How do I know if my workout is hard enough?
One of my private clients would ask me this question every week in our coaching session. As a weight-loss coach my goal is to get my clients results, but also to make sure they’re not too hard on themselves. It’s a fine line: Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if your workout is effective or if you need to push yourself more.
When a client is questioning the intensity of their exercise routine, I lead them through this check in. If you find yourself wondering if your workout is tough enough, ask yourself these questions:
1. What do I hope to accomplish with my fitness routine?
In order to evaluate if your workout is hard enough, you need to have a clear goal in mind. How can you tell if a fitness routine is challenging enough to help you see positive change if you aren’t sure what changes to look for? It may be a physical goal, like weight loss or toning, or the desire to have more energy, reduce stress or sleep better. Take a few minutes to sit down and list out the specific goals you hope to accomplish by committing to an exercise routine.
2. Did I push myself to my max effort at least once?
Check in with yourself during your workout: Is there at least one time when you felt you pushed yourself to the max? This will look different based on the type of exercise you are doing. If you’re spinning, you may feel winded from a hill or a sprint and need recovery time. In yoga, your thighs may burn from holding warrior pose. You may feel like you need a minute to catch your breath after your walk or run. If you feel you’ve hit your max effort at least once, it’s a good sign that your workout is challenging enough. I encourage my clients to feel this way three times throughout a 20-minute workout, so make it a goal to increase those bursts that get you close to your max output.
3. How do I feel after my workout?
At the end of a workout, do you feel like you have more to give or are you completely exhausted? Neither of these extremes is ideal. As a personal trainer, I want my clients to leave their workout feeling like they have accomplished something, but with more energy and a better mood. If you feel like taking a nap or collapsing on the couch, your workout is probably too hard. A good workout should invigorate you, not deplete you. On the flipside, if you feel like you could’ve kept going or like you didn’t accomplish much, it’s a good indication that your workout is too easy and you can push yourself a little harder.
4. Do I see changes in my body and strength?
Noticing changes in your body is a good sign that your workout is challenging enough. If your jeans fit looser, you use a smaller hook on your bra or a shirt is easier to button, these are all signs that your body is changing. An increase in strength is also a good indicator you are working hard enough. If you’re able to hold a plank longer, run faster or complete a set of squats with less of a burn, these are all signs that your strength is increasing, which means your workouts are working!
5. Am I making progress toward my goal?
Now it’s time to revisit those goals you identified. With weight loss, are you losing at least 1-2 pounds a week? Have you noticed an increase in your energy or your mood? Check in with yourself every few weeks and assess whether or not you’re making progress toward your goal. If the answer is no, it may be time to up the intensity of your exercise routine. But one word of caution: Pushing your body too hard can also cause a plateau. A workout routine without proper recovery built in can hinder our progress. So if your workouts have been intense, but your body hasn’t responded, it may be time to back off. Do gentle yoga or a slow Pilates routine. Trade the hour-long spin class for a 30-minute leisurely walk. Reducing the stress placed on your body may be the thing you need to recover and start seeing progress.
Does it matter that I do the same workout every day?
One of my biggest goals with my private clients is helping them find a type of exercise that they really enjoy so that they can stay consistent with their workout routine. If you’re new to exercising, finding an activity you actually like doing can be exciting.
Perhaps it’s walking, dance cardio or yoga. Maybe you’ve fallen in love with strength training. There’s nothing better than looking forward to a workout, especially if this is a new component of your lifestyle. You may even find that this workout has become a habit and it doesn’t require much motivation to get it done each day.
While nothing makes me happier than someone truly enjoying exercise, there are some drawbacks to doing the same workout every single day, both for our physical and mental health. Here are a few reasons you may want to mix things up:
You might get bored
By doing the same workout day after day, you risk growing tired of the routine and losing your excitement for exercise. If you find yourself just going through the motions of a workout and not feeling engaged, you may be getting bored of it. This can lead you to not put your all into the workout, which will slow your progress, or drop it all together, losing the habit you worked so hard to create. I recommend adding in some new moves to your routine every other week, or upping the intensity, to keep things interesting.
You could even take a little break from your favorite workout. As they say: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. One of my clients became bored of her morning spin session on her bike at home. So we changed it up for a couple of weeks and had her go into a different room of the house, grab a set of dumbbells, and focus on strength training. After two weeks of doing resistance training a few times a week, she missed her spin workout and was ready to go back to the bike!
You risk overuse of certain muscles
Performing the same routine every day can lead to excess soreness or strain. Using the same muscle groups over and over again doesn’t leave any time for your muscles to repair and grow. I recommend alternating days training different muscle groups so that you give your body time to recover.
Doing too much of any type of exercise, without adequate rest time, runs the risk of causing pain or injury. Running every day is a lot of impact on the knees and doing full-body strength training on consecutive days can overwork your muscles and not give them time to recover.
Before working with me, one of my clients was riding her stationary bike every single day and started complaining of hip pain. She ended up having to go to physical therapy to loosen up her hips because they’d become so tight from biking daily. Not only was it important that she add stretching to her routine to combat the repetitive movement, but we began breaking up her spin sessions with other types of movement to give her lower body a break.
You may hit a plateau
You could potentially stop seeing results if the workout becomes too easy for you. For many, the whole point of exercise is to see and feel physical results. If you’ve been consistently performing the same routine, chances are it will start to get easier as you increase your physical fitness and your body gets used to the movement. For certain workouts like strength training, I recommend increasing the number of sets, reps or the weight. For cardio workouts, try interval training or add a completely different type of exercise into your routine to keep the body guessing and challenge your muscles.
For example, another one of my clients had been doing Zumba for a few months. Initially, she saw weight-loss results, but after three months she seemed to have plateaued. In the beginning, she was sore and needed a day off in between sessions. But after a month of doing the same workout, she upped it to five days a week and still wasn’t seeing the scale budge. Her body had become used to the movement and she stopped seeing progress. So we focused on Pilates to get into the deep core muscles — something that she wasn’t focusing on in her Zumba classes! — and she began to see positive changes in her body again.
So how often is it OK to perform my favorite workout?
I would recommend performing a workout you absolutely love approximately three times a week, skipping a day in between. On these days where you’re not doing that workout, try to move your body in a different way. You need variety both physically and mentally in order to stay motivated and keep seeing results. And by exploring other types of movement, you may just find some other forms of exercise that you enjoy, too!
How Often Should You Work Out?
How many times have you joined a gym or committed to an exercise plan to lose weight, only to back out after a few weeks because you have no idea how often you should work out?
If your answer is “too many to count,” you’re not alone. Knowing how many days you should exercise can be confusing. This is especially so if the amount of time you’re putting in doesn’t match up with your goals.
So, whether your goal is to sweat it out on the treadmill more often to lose a few pounds or to increase the amount of weight you’re lifting in order to gain muscle, the following tips can help you hit your target sooner and with greater success.
How often should you work out for weight loss?
Knowing how often you should strength train and do cardiovascular exercise to lose weight depends on how quickly you want to see results.
The general recommendation is to lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. That said, many people seek programs that are designed for faster weight loss.
In the simplest of terms, you’ll need to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight. Dieting has proven to be an effective method of losing weight, but in order to maintain weight loss, you need to exercise.
How much weight you lose depends on the amount of exercise you’re willing to commit to and how closely you stick to your diet. If you really want to see results reflected on the scale and continue to make progress over time, you need to commit to working out at least four to five days per week.
But remember, you’ll build up to this. To start, you might only want to do two or three days per week and slowly work your way up to five days. Plan your workouts to include a combination of:
- strength training
- core work
For maximum results, a workout program should consist of cardiovascular and strength training exercise. When you lift weights, you increase your lean muscle mass. This allows you to increase your metabolism and burn calories at a higher rate, even when you’re not working out.
Cardiovascular exercise isn’t just essential in maintaining good heart health. Cardio exercise can:
- burn calories
- boost your mood
- decrease stress
Generally, aim to do either:
- 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity at least five days per week (150 minutes per week)
- at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days per week (75 minutes per week)
If you want to lose weight, consider two days of moderate activity and two days of vigorous aerobic activity or high-intensity-interval-training (HIIT).
Aim for two to three days per week of strength training. Include full-body workouts that focus on compound exercises. These are moves that work multiple muscles at a time. Examples include:
- squats with a shoulder press
- deadlift with a bent-over row
- lunges with a lateral raise
- pushups and plank with a one-arm row
Other key exercises to include in your strength training program include:
- straight leg deadlifts
- pushup dips
- overhead presses
- dumbbell rows
- exercise ball crunches
To get the most out of your weight loss workouts, make sure you’re following these guidelines:
- Vary the intensity of your workouts. Include both HIIT and moderate-intensity exercises.
- Perform different methods of cardio in a week, like running on the treadmill, biking, and swimming.
- Use circuit training when lifting weights to keep your calorie burn high. Circuit training involves doing a series of exercises, one after the other, with no rest between each exercise. At the end of the series of exercises, you typically rest for a set period (30 to 60 seconds) and repeat the circuit two or three more times.
- Take at least two days of rest each week.
How often should you work out for muscle gain?
Finding the right balance of cardio exercise and strength training is key when it comes to putting on lean muscle. Do too much, and you risk overtraining and losing your hard-earned muscle. On the other hand, if you don’t up the intensity and put the time in, your muscle gains will be minimal.
Stick to two to three days of cardio per week. Focus on shorter, higher-intensity sessions, such as 25 minutes of HIIT.
You need to be hitting the weights at least three days per week. The research says that at the very least, training a minimum of two days per week is needed to maximize muscle growth. How you structure your workouts and the amount of days you devote to strength training depends on your current fitness level.
Consider this schedule, depending on your training level:
|Training level||Days of training|
|Beginner||2 to 3 days per week of strength training (full-body each session)|
|Intermediate||3 to 4 days per week of strength training (split up workout by body part or upper/lower body)|
|Advanced||4 to 5 days per week of strength training (an advanced exerciser might structure their week with three days on, one day off)|
If four days of strength training feels right, consider splitting your week up into upper (arms, chest, and abs) and lower (legs) body segments. For example:
|Wednesday||rest or cardio|
|Saturday||rest or cardio|
|Sunday||rest or cardio|
If you’re not gaining muscle as quickly as you like, you might be facing the dreaded plateau. When you train the same body parts with the same exercises and amount of weight over an extended period of time, there’s a good chance your body will stop responding.
In order to get back to a muscle-building phase, you need to change things up. Here are some ways to do so:
- Add weight to your lifts.
- Swap out your current exercises for a fresh set.
- Change the number of sets and reps you’re performing. By varying the rep range, you combine lighter and heavier loads to elicit greater increases in strength and muscle size. For example, a heavy day will consist of three to five reps, a moderate day will have 8 to 12 reps, and a light day will be 15 to 20 reps.
When it comes to adding muscle to your frame, you need to make sure you’re giving your body plenty of time to rest between strength training sessions. Doing the same amount of exercise day after day can inhibit recovery and cause you to lose muscle over time.
If the idea of taking a day or two off each week is hard for you to manage, consider treating these days as active rest. Do a gentle yoga class or spend extra time stretching.
Cardiovascular exercise and strength training both play a significant role in targeting weight loss and increasing muscle size. Finding the right balance of the two will depend on your individual goals, how quickly you want to achieve them, and the amount of time you can commit to exercising.
How Long Should You Workout At The Gym
The truth is that the answer is different for every person. Sleep and nutrition are vastly important to the length of your workouts – if you’re eating rubbish and not getting eight hours of shut-eye, you’ll struggle training regularly and burn out.
Other factors can influence the time you spend at your local club, including the actual quality put into your routine, your physical abilities, equipment used, and your fitness and health goals.
There is no definitive answer. But this guide will give you a rough idea, looking closely at different workout goals – whether you’re bulking up or shedding fat.
How long should your workout at the gym be for general fitness?
National Health Service recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week, as well as two strength-building exercises that focus on your major muscles.
If we’re looking at how long your workout at the gym should be, this could be broken down into six half-hour sessions a week, with one rest day. Three of those sessions could be strength training, while the other three focus on cardio.
While not everyone can fit in this kind of routine, everyone has time to exercise. There are other ways to squeeze in your 150 minutes. One is to perform more vigorous activities for a shorter period of time: sprinting, aerobics, gymnastics and warrior ropes all make you breathe harder and faster.
A rule of thumb is that one minute of working out hard gives you the same benefits of two minutes of moderate exercise. So feel free to cut your time in the gym in half: just work at double the intensity for the same results.
How long should your workout at the gym be to lose weight?
Turn up the intensity – a solid 30-to-45 minutes of purposeful training, three to five days a week, is better than a longer and less focused session. Be sure to spend 10 minutes warming up and another 10 cooling down and stretching. The quality of your workout is crucial for weight loss. Functional movements such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows and other core work can burn calories even after you leave the gym and supercharge your fat torching.
How long should your workout at the gym be to build muscle?
When it comes to bulking up, less is more. To stimulate the growth of muscle cells and get stronger, hit the gym hard and get out. Spend no longer than one hour weight training, including warm-up time.
It’s crucial to take a rest day between weightlifting sessions to give your muscles time to recover and grow. Rest days also prevent you from overloading your joints or tearing a tendon. Two days in a row is the maximum you should be doing consecutive weights workouts, unless you’re an experienced lifter.