Everyone has heard that the magic number for exercise is 30 minutes 5 days a week. But is that across the board? Everyone is different and studies have shown that the healthy amount of time to work out may differ from person to person.
One study by the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism says that the amount of time is more important than the frequency of a workout. Doing at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week should be more of a goal than working out 5 days a week. You can split up the 150 minutes however you would like, according to this study. The total amount, type, and intensity of activity all have a much greater effect on your body than frequency, says study author Ian Janssen, PhD, associate professor at the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Canada.
However, while this study shows that 150 minutes a week, spread out however you would like, will still have health benefits and lower risk of illness; it does not say you can work out once or twice a week and call it good. Physically, your fitness goals may not be met if you do not spread out your workouts. The US Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report (mouthful, I know) states that fewer, longer workout sessions may lead to joint pain and will not help you reach your fitness goals.
The type of training also determines the frequency of workouts. Seasoned athletes will be able to endure longer, more frequent and intense workouts while beginners will need to work their way up. Newer athletes may need an extra rest day. Avoid overdoing it. You will be sore and that means it is working but if you push your body too far you will cause more harm than good.
Strength training should be done about 2-3 times a week. Resistance training causes small tears in the muscles and they take about 1-2 days to heal. When the muscles heal, they will be stronger but if they are put under too much stress before healing, it can lead to injury.
Cardio exercise is great for heart health and can be done more frequently. Walking, swimming, aerobics, jogging or biking do not lead to muscle tears like strength training but they do aid in burning more calories and building endurance. Cardio exercises can be done 3-5 times a week.
No matter what workout you do, don’t forget to stretch and rest! Stretching helps you avoid injury and will improve your performance no matter what workout you do. Rest days are also vital for your muscles to repair. Without stretching or rest days, your risk of injury increases significantly.
With all this in mind, the ideal amount of exercising is a healthy balance. No matter if you are trying to lose weight, lower risk of illness or improve over all healthy, make sure you are getting at least 150 minutes a week and you have a balance of strength training and cardio training. If you miss a day, just workout a bit longer the next day.