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How Much Time Do I Need To Exercise?

Are you working out often enough or long enough to reach your goals? Read these guidelines and fine out. @jillconyers

Most people know there are many benefits of physical fitness and being active; you feel better, more confidence, helps prevent and treat the most common chronic conditions, reduces stress, better sleep and builds self discipline. But the question, “how much time should I workout” to achieve the benefits or reach my goal?

One of the most common fitness questions I’m asked, online and in person, is, “how often should I do cardio and for how long? and “how often should I workout?”

Two of the most commonly referenced activity guidelines for improving physical fitness, Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise from the American College of Sports Medicine and the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provide the following guidelines for adults:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

OR

  • At least 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

OR

  • An equal mix of moderate and vigorous intensity aerobic activity AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

When answering the question how much time do I need to workout, individual goals need to be taken into consideration to determine how much activity may be needed. For someone wanting to adopt a healthier lifestyle, the above guidelines are recommended. For even greater benefits, including weight loss, adults need:

  • 300 minutes each week of moderate intensity aerobic activity AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

OR

  • 150 minutes each week of vigorous intensity aerobic activity AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

OR

  • An equivalent mix of moderate and vigorous intensity aerobic activity AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

Don’t have time for a 30 minute workout? You can follow the guidelines by breaking up the minutes throughout the week and even throughout the day. Find what works best for you. As long as you’re active in a minimum of 10 minute increments, you’ll experience the benefits of physical fitness.

* Moderate intensity aerobic activity means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat.

* Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity means you’re breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit.

This week my training plan meets the guidelines. Looking back at my workout plans, if I’m going to fall short on minutes, it’s cardio.

MondayEnergize Your Body HIIT Workout 8 (30 minutes)
Tuesday: Body Pump (55 minutes)
Wednesday: Yoga (60 minutes)
Thursday: Run (60 minutes)
Friday: Rest
Saturday:  Energize Your Body HIIT Workout 8 (30 minutes), Yoga (75 minutes)
Sunday: Run (60 minutes), Yoga (75 minutes)

This information is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice and supervision of your personal physician. Any application of this or any other exercise routine set forth in this program is at the viewer’s discretion and sole risk.

How do you determine how much time to workout? Does your week of workouts meet the guidelines for activity?

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54 Comments

  1. Thanks for the great info, I’m a runner and love doing yoga, but don’t always get enough strength training in, so I need to get better at finding the time to fit that into my schedule!

  2. Great info, Jill. I have a love / hate relationship with HIIT routines, but TIU (tone it up) has some really fun ones to follow along with 🙂

  3. Ooo so informative! My new goal has been to workout for an hour about 5 days a week–going back and forth between vigorous and moderate. I definitely need to work in more cardio though. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I am a bit on the lazy side but I try to walk every day for about 20 minutes.

  5. wow, this is a lot of information to take in. I will be jotting this down, i am always curious to know how long I need to be working out.

  6. Great post!! This is so helpful. I just started working out again last month and have been wondering how long it would take before my goals have been reached. Especially with toning my stomach and legs. It seems like it’s a VERY slow process haha

  7. Great info. My running has slowed down since it started to get cooler. I’m going to try to run at least 3 times a week and do strength exercises twice a week. Thanks for the motivation!!!

  8. This is really information to have. I’m doing my best to stay active at the moment, but at 38 weeks pregnant, I’m absolutely falling short of these goals. Now I know exactly what I need to be working towards down the road.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve been wondering this for ages and was never able to find a solid answer. This is great now to know for sure!

  10. This is good to know. I’ve actually asked this question before and try to do two days, but I think I need to up my time a little more.

  11. My workouts are always different lengths of time, some are short and sweet (cardio) some are longer lifting session and boxing and yoga are usually the longest of all my workouts. I like to switch it up to keep me interested I get so bored…it’s terrible. Great information Jill.

  12. My training schedule pretty much dictates my routine – usually half marathon training so 3 days a week of running (2 shorter, 1 long) + 2 days of weight training and/or cross training + 1 day of foam rolling and stretching so I think I usually meet the guidelines!

  13. It so great to read these guidelines. I try to hit the gym a minimum of three times a week, then I also take a class outside that, and do some walking. Thank you for also sharing your schedule.

  14. THis is great information. I also like to see everyone else’s workout schedule. It is motivating

  15. I’m really enjoying doing 2-3 times a week resistance training after cutting back on it for marathon training. It’s easier for me to get lots of cardio, but those weight lifting sessions pay off so much. Great tips, Jill!

  16. I’d settle for any time at this point-I’m so bad at getting off my butt and doing something.

  17. I think it’s so important to emphasize that you can break up your workouts into smaller pockets of time!! Dave and I go for an hour walk probably 4 days a week. It’s our time to catch up and just get out in nature. It doesn’t feel like exercise and there is no equipment needed! And it’s my favorite time of the week because there are not cell phones and computers distracting us from each other!! You know I love a good HIIT workout to get my cardio on and weight lifting is my LIFE!! I need to find more time on my mat, come be my yoga instructor!!

  18. Y’all are exhausting me with all that work! My current regimen is strength training 3x a week for 30-45 minutes, walk once a week for about an hour (weather permitting), and 30 minutes of yoga or cardio 2x a week.

  19. Great post! Interesting that it kind of conflicts with my semi-controversial post for today (I’m not big on cardio). Most of my cardio comes in the form of walking around all day and biking/hiking about once a week. Other than that I’m all about the strength training. I wonder what the guidelines would be for light cardio.

  20. Nope mine does not meet those guidelines at all. I have two little ones and literally no time between caring for them, my husband, working from home and cleaning and cooking. I barely have enough time for sleep! *if* I get in excersize it is hauling the kids and laundry up and down the stairs or grocery shopping. I used to walk an hour a day pre-kids and do at least a half hour of yoga a day and I miss it so bad!

  21. This is really interesting information. Based on the calculations, I need to step mine up another day or so.

  22. Such a great breakdown, Jill! I usually aim for at least 30 minutes of my own workout because I usually do at least 45 minutes 4 days a week with teaching. I’m loving shorter, intense workouts more than longer these days.

  23. I love to see BODYPUMP on your list of workouts, because it certainly hits all the major muscle groups. I definitely think that people should aim for three resistance sessions a week to really make changes in their body over the recommended minimum of two. I always try to get three-a-week, even though that doesn’t always happen. And breaking it up into smaller workouts each day is totally fine, which I know some people don’t realize. Every session doesn’t have to be long! Happy Friday, Jill! 🙂

  24. Great guidelines! I have something to strive for. As a working mom, it’s hard to find time to myself, but I’ve been opting for full body 20-30 min workouts for now – better than nothing!

  25. Great information! I’m usually really good with getting my cardio in, but not as good with the strength training.

  26. It’s good to have an idea of what the basics are before starting a program. I think the numbers can sound a little intimidating to a new exerciser, but moderate movement is not that difficult to achieve, especially if you break it up through the day. This is a good resource.

  27. I need to get back to realizing that I don’t have to run double digits every weekend, first, lol

  28. I always go into my workouts with a time in mind. Sometimes I loose track of time once Im going but thats not always a bad thing. not always 😉 Thanks for the link up! Have a fabulous weekend!

  29. I never think about my workouts in terms of time, but this is a great guideline. I know I need to do more strength conditioning and I’m hoping to put a greater focus on that within the next few months.

    1. Thanks Megan. Mind if ask how many days a week you workout? I’ve really enjoyed the HIIT workouts for shorter periods of time. Thanks!

  30. Mostly by how much time I have! My sweet spot is about 45 min on weekdays. A bit longer if I’m going for a run. On weekends I run for about 75 minutes and cycle for 1-2 hours. I think I’ve got my active minutes covered – I just need to cut back on my sitting minutes!

  31. I don’t know that I particularly log my workout minutes but I feel like on average I cover what I need to and possibly more. Some weeks are better than others due to schedules and such but that’s life and balance.

    1. Hi Rosi. The minutes are more important depending on your goal. I’m sure you get more than enough time sweating it out. I’m loving a balance right now. It literally makes me smile.

  32. I pretty much skipped cardio this week. I had busy days and I preferred to work on strength training.
    Yesterday I did 500m rowing AFAP but that was it.
    Thanks for sharing this info, Jill.
    #fitfluential

    1. Hi Debbie, if I’m going to fall short in one area will be cardio. As a runner I never thought I would say that. Have an awesome weekend!

  33. It’s strange to say that peaking for the marathon I’m not really “fit” but it’s true – all strength has been neglected, and yoga too! I love running marathons but also love the down time afterwards to rebalance with fitness.

    1. You’re so right Michele! I’m more fit now than I ever was when I trained for marathons and ultras. During those times it was basically running and only running. My body loves a balance!

  34. I usually workout in accordance to my schedule – I never think about how long I ‘should’ be exercising, however I’m not trying to reach a weight loss goal so that changes things I’d say! Great post thanks for sharing!!

    1. Happy to share Christina. The time is more relevant depending on your goal. A lot of training is task focused.

  35. great guidelines Jill! I am lacking in the strength training department but I am made my commitment to OTF and it opens on 10/30! I know as I am approaching the big 5-0 this type of exercise is even more important! Now time to get my run in! TGIF lady!

    1. You’re so awesome Mary Beth! I’m the opposite. If I’m lacking it will be in the cardio department. Have a fantastic weekend!

  36. Good to know! Unfortunately I was hitting those numbers a month and a half ago but I’ve since hit a slump.
    Feeling motivated after reading this though!

    1. We’ve all been there. The dreaded slump. Fortunately with time the slump passes. Think of it this way. It’s your body’s way of telling you to back off a little or take a few rest days 🙂

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