How often you should work out depends on several factors, like your activity level, age, fitness goals, and more. If you are new to working out, you may wonder, “How long do I need to exercise?” and “Is working out three days enough?”
Generally, experts advise 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week or 30 minutes daily, five days per week. You can also meet your fitness goals by doing 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or 25 minutes daily, three days per week.
The ideal workout plan includes a mix of cardio and strength training spread throughout the week. The best weekly workout schedule for you is one you can do consistently.
Read on to learn how often you should work out, depending on your goals, and what exercises you can include during the week.
Staying physically active helps support good health by improving your fitness and lowering the risk of several chronic illnesses.
Different types of physical activity include:
- Balance: These exercises may prevent falls, reducing your fracture risk. Examples include standing on one leg and tai chi.
- Cardio: Also known as aerobic or endurance exercise, cardio increases your breathing and heart rate. Cardio helps strengthen your heart and lungs, which may lower your heart disease risk. Exercises include biking, jogging, running, swimming, and walking.
- Flexibility: Stretching your muscles helps increase your agility and range of motion. Yoga helps improve flexibility.
- Strength training: This helps strengthen your muscles. For example, you can lift heavy weights or light dumbbells or use resistance bands.
You can do a mix of those exercises during the week. For example, you might jog or run for 25 minutes three days per week, then add two or more weight-lifting days. You may add a light stretching routine after those workouts to help improve your flexibility.
How often you work out depends on your experience with fitness and the time you have available. Start with a small goal if you are new to exercise. For example, you could reduce your time sitting, like going for a walk before or after a meal.
Ultimately, how you schedule your workouts and what you do comes down to what you enjoy the most, Kristian Flores, CSCS, a conditioning and strength coach based in New York, told Health. Finding pleasure in your workout will keep you coming back for more sweat and lead to results.
You’ll want to switch up which types of workouts you do during the week.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises focusing on cardio and strength training exercises. Aim for two or three days of cardio. Spend the other two or three days doing strength training exercises.
You can mix cardio and strength training if your schedule does not allow at least five workouts per week. For example, you could go for a 20-minute jog and 25 minutes of strength training.
Strength training helps keep your muscles strong. The CDC advises doing at least two days of strength training per week.
Examples of strength training include:
- Body-weight exercises (e.g., crunches, push-ups, sit-ups, and plank)
- Using resistance bands
- Weight lifting
Try incorporating different types of strength training exercises that work all major muscle groups, including:
Typically, cardio exercises are more intense than others. What you choose to do for cardio comes down to what you enjoy doing, King Hancock, MS, ACSM-CPT, health coach and educator, told Health.
Research has found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and Tabata are some of the most effective and efficient cardio workouts.
HIIT, or circuit workouts, are intense, quick workouts, said Flores. Tabata is a more intense version of HIIT that you can do with or without weights. Tabata entails working out for 20 seconds, resting for 10, then repeating for eight total rounds. You can quickly work up a solid sweat in 25–30 minutes.
“Most importantly, you want to think about HIIT as working in spikes of effort that take you to that [uncomfortable] feeling and then giving yourself enough recovery to repeat those efforts,” said Hancock.
Other examples of cardio exercises include:
- Doing yard work (e.g., pushing a lawn mower)
- Playing sports (e.g., basketball and tennis)
- Swimming and water aerobics
Try intensifying your cardio workouts if you are working out three days per week, said Hancock. In contrast, you might opt for a low-intensity cardio workout if you exercise for long periods.
Generally, incorporating cardio and strength training into your workout regimen is essential, whether your goal is to build strength, lose weight, or maintain good health. Combining those workouts helps support good health.
“Our bodies are meant to adapt to stressors,” said Hancock. “It’s important to mix up those stressors to keep the body transforming.”
Here’s what you need to know about how your workout frequency and intensity may vary depending on your health and fitness goals.
Generally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. For example, you might split that into five 30-minute workouts per week. In contrast, you could opt for 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly.
Examples of weekly workouts include:
- Briskly walk for 30 minutes daily, five days per week. Add two or more days of strength training.
- Jog or run for 25 minutes, three days per week. Add two or more days of strength training.
- Combine moderate and vigorous exercises on two or more days per week. For example, do 30 minutes of walking and running intervals. Add two or more days of strength training.
Strength and Muscle Gain
During strength training, you can do lower, upper, or total body workouts. Of note: Results only appear for the muscles you work on during your strength-training sessions.
Try two 30-minute workouts that target the entire body, suggested Flores. You can include compound movements, or exercises that work multiple muscles at one time.
Examples of compound movements include:
Try adding lower and upper body days if you have more days for strength and want to build muscle, said Hancock. Lower body exercises include hinge exercises (e.g., deadlifts), lunges, and squats. On upper body days, think about push and pull exercises, said Hancock.
Push moves include chest flies, chest presses, and push-ups. Pull exercises include lateral pull-downs, pull-ups, rows, and supermen or swimmers. You can mix in bicep and tricep moves on those days, added Hancock.
“As you get fitter, aim to increase the volume of your session, which means increasing the weight used and the total repetitions per exercise,” said Flores.
Continuously progressing will help with building lean muscle mass while gaining muscle strength. Try doing one set, or eight to 12 repetitions, per exercise. Gradually build up to two to three sets per exercise to gain strength and muscle.
Generally, people lose weight by creating a calorie deficit. Physical activity helps burn calories, in addition to a balanced, reduced-calorie diet.
As a result, you may need to increase the length of time or number of days you exercise to lose weight. Some evidence suggests that exercising 60 minutes daily, five times per week, may help you lose weight.
On average, in 60 minutes, a 154-pound person may burn:
- 280 calories briskly walking
- 330 calories dancing
- 510 calories swimming laps
- 590 calories jogging or running at a pace of five miles per hour
How many calories you burn in 60 minutes depends on several factors, including the intensity of your exercise and weight. Likewise, how many calories you must burn to create a calorie deficit varies.
Working with a healthcare provider can help create a weight-loss plan that works for you.
Is It OK To Workout Every Day for a Week?
Working out every day is OK as long as you do not overexert yourself. You may be exercising too much if you often cannot perform at the same level each day, feel anxious and tired, or have overuse injuries.
Instead, taking at least one or two days of rest allows your body to rebuild and recover. Rest days are, more than anything, a chance to listen to your body’s needs so you can prepare for your next workout.
You can use your rest days to:
- Do some light stretches and foam rolling
- Getting extra sleep
- Prep healthy meals
- Take a stroll around the block
“It’s about actively taking care of your body so you can produce efforts that support your goals, whether that’s getting strong, building lean muscles, getting fit, or losing weight,” said Hancock. “It’s important that people listen to their bodies, and it’s important that you are mixing it up and adding variety.”
Get to know your resting heart rate (RHR), added Hancock. Your RHR is the number of times your heart beats at rest. Typically, a normal RHR is 60–100 beats per minute. A low RHR means your heart pumps more blood with less effort, a sign that your heart is strengthening.
Most fitness smartwatches track your heart rate and give you insights into your RHR. You may notice your RHR stays elevated for hours, or even days, after a vigorous workout if you monitor it regularly.
You can use RHR to see when you are fully recovered and ready to take on the next round of exercise. Generally, waiting until your RHR returns to its regular rate before returning to the gym is essential.
Generally, aim to exercise five days per week. Still, the number of days you work out may vary depending on your available time and fitness level.
Try doing a mix of cardio and strength training exercises during the week. You can mix up the type of workouts you do across alternating days or on the same days.
Finally, taking rest days is just as crucial as exercise days. On rest days, catch up on sleep, hydrate, and lightly stretch or foam roll. Rest days help prepare your body for your next workout.