So you’re crafting the *perfect* (chef’s kiss) wellness regimen for yourself. You’re meal prepping, increasing your hydration, starting a bedtime routine to get more hours of Zzzs — now how many times a week should you be working out?
What’s The Perfect Workout Routine?
Just like with your diet — everyone’s body is different. We all respond differently to different programs, foods, etc.
Of course, there’s a general, very baseline suggestion that you probably know already: the one suggested by the CDC. 150 minutes per week — spread out however you see fit. The default suggestion is 30 minutes, five times per week. But if you go on a rather long run (a half to full marathon, for instance) — that’s covered in one XL workout.
The guidelines have also been updated to suggest not just the 150 minutes of aerobic activity (think: anything from yard work and walking the dog to basketball and swimming) plus two days per week of muscle-strengthening activity.
You can mix it up. It doesn’t have to be five days a week of 30-minute moderate-intensity sessions. You can do a little moderate, a little vigorous, a little muscle-training.
AND! If you’re at a more intense level, you can up the intensity and cut the time in half (we’ll get to details on safety in a moment). Think: 75 minutes per week of higher intensity workouts (25 minutes three times a week, 15 minutes five times a week, or a blast of 75 minutes all at once if you’re on the advanced side).
Up to five times per week: To get started with a few days of aerobic per week, try mixing things up with circuits, cardio, dance, and kickboxing.
Up to two times per week: Toning, strength, Pilates, and barre will help you round out your routine with some muscle-strengthening exercise.
How Many Days Should YOU Work Out Each Week?
That really comes down to your personal plan, pre-existing conditions and injuries, and goals. It’s also extremely important to not “level up” too quickly. If you’ve been at a low-intensity, beginner level for a while, don’t just jump right into high-intensity, advanced exercises and training because you’re trying to make up for lost time! That’s not great for your body.
“There is a sweet spot for each person that considers both the amount of exposure to exercise they need in order to spark a change in the body and the amount of rest they need to avoid injury and overtraining,” says Dr. Liz Letchford, Ph.D., MS, ATC, injury-prevention expert, and athletic trainer.
Her bottom line: quality over quantity, safety over intensity. “More training days are not better for reaching your goals,” says Dr. Letchford. “Find a rhythm that allows you to see progress -— maybe it’s two to three times per week of training — that doesn’t come at the expense of your nervous system.” What does that mean? Putting yourself at risk for injury, not recovering properly, causing inflammation, and even giving yourself overtraining syndrome.
“If you are training hard six or seven times per week without adequate recovery, this might be to blame for your frustration around not achieving your goals,” she says.
Don’t Overdo It!
Part of finding the perfect regimen is to ease into it. Dr. Letchford warns you to not overdo it. “When someone comes to me with an insidious onset injury, I ask them what their training routine has been like for the past two weeks,” explains Dr. Letchford. “If they had a sudden increase in days or intensity of their training, usually I will see an injury occurring about 10 days after they started ramping up the intensity.”
Dr. Letchford says that “In order for training to be effective, a certain amount of overload must be achieved. Training must be consistently and increasingly more difficult as it progresses.” Again: ramp up to something that your body (that means muscles, bones and joints, lungs, heart, and nervous system!) is ready for. And as she mentioned — recovery is essential, too.
So aim for about 150 minutes of lighter exercise — spread out however works for your schedule. A 15-minute walk in the morning and 15 minute cardio sesh at lunch can do the trick! Then a couple times a week, work on your muscles. Remember to be kind to your body, don’t overdo it, and recover well. You’re in it for the long-haul — so treat your routine like a marathon, not a sprint!