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How often should you work out?

How often should you work out? Image shows woman stretching on a bridge
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How often should you work out to achieve your fitness goals? Whether you’re getting back into working out or starting a new fitness plan, finding a balance can be difficult. Busy lives and lack of motivation can easily get in the way of the best-laid plans. Whether you prefer to join a fitness club or invest in a treadmill, it can be hard to make time for taking care of your health. Working out regularly is a common goal and it can be achieved in a variety of ways. However, you don’t have to wait until New Year’s to kickstart a new workout regime.

There are more options than ever for those looking to challenge themselves; from fitness classes at the gym to online guided workouts at home, there is sure to be a style that suits you. Often, a mixture of both strength and endurance workouts can stop you from getting bored while reaping useful benefits. But what do health experts and researchers think?  We dive into how often we should work out each week, how long it takes to get fit, and break down the benefits of regular exercise.

How often should you work out?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or swimming, per week. On top of this, the CDC also recommends that American adults do at least two days of muscle-strengthening activity per week. This may sound like a lot, but it can be broken down into smaller chunks to suit busier lifestyles. If you are tight on time or prefer something more intense, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week, alongside two days of strength training, is a good alternative.

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The World Health Organization supports this research, suggesting 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity workouts for the average adult. In addition, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer recommends reducing periods of extended sitting each day. This can be done by getting up and getting a drink, going outside for some fresh air, or doing some stretches to ease muscle tension. 

If you struggle to incorporate regular exercise and positive health changes into your life, there are ways to slowly build up. The NHS in the UK suggests trying to fit one more walk into your day, swapping to healthy snack options, and avoiding sugary drinks. If starting a new regime seems daunting, simply going for a 30-minute walk each day can help you build confidence and work towards the recommended activity level. If you’re wondering how often should you work out, try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Whether you prefer to go to the gym with a buddy or use online classes at home, getting at least 150 minutes per week is a great start.

How long does it take to get fit?

Knowing how often you should work out is one thing, but how long does it take to get fit? Physical fitness is defined by experts from the Encyclopedia of Behavioural Medicine as "...one’s ability to execute daily activities with optimal performance, endurance, and strength with the management of disease, fatigue, and stress and reduced sedentary behavior". But being fit can have a personal definition depending on your genetics, starting health, and goals, making defining a general timeframe difficult. Some programs boast that they can get you fit in just six weeks or less, but those have been shown by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research to not necessarily make much of a difference. However, you may start to feel a difference within yourself in a few weeks. 

A study published in the US National Library of Medicine states that "prolonged training can improve a subject’s physical fitness index from 80 to 120 over several months." In other words, consistent training, alongside a healthy diet and rest, can create tangible results in your health. However, the study does warn that stopping training can affect your physical fitness; "Five weeks after cessation of an efficient training course, endurance-produced electrocardiogram changes have already disappeared." To stay fit, you need to keep training and challenging your body; entering a sedentary lifestyle can set your progress back within only a few weeks.

How often should you work out? Image of woman riding exercise bike in spin class gym

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How often should you work out? Keeping the 150-300 minutes recommended above in mind, being consistent is key to a healthy lifestyle. Various factors impact how long it takes to get fit, including the type of exercise you are doing and your fitness level before working out regularly. 

What are the benefits of regular exercise?

How often should you work out? With 150-300 minutes per week of exercise, you will be on your way to a healthy lifestyle. According to the CDC and the World Health Organization, there are a variety of short- and long-term benefits to regular exercise, including:

• Reduced anxiety symptoms - researchers from Frontiers in Psychiatry have found that symptoms of depression and anxiety can ease with regular exercise.

• Maintained thinking, learning, and judgment skills as you age - working out regularly can help move blood and oxygen to your brain, keeping your mind sharp as you age.

• Improved sleep - Regular exercise can improve your sleep, which will prevent you from getting fatigued during your workout.

• Maintained or lost weight over time - Along with plenty of rest and healthy diet changes, you could lose or maintain your current weight.

• Reduced risk of some cancers - these potentially could include Bladder, Breast, Colon, Endometrium, Esophagus, Kidney, Lung, Stomach

• Improved quality of life - As your body strengthens and your health improves, you could find yourself gaining confidence and your quality of life increasing overall. 

• Strengthened bones and muscles - Putting added stress on your body through exercise can strengthen your bones and muscles over time.

• Reduced risk of injury and falling - As your body gets stronger and you get used to moving over different terrains, you reduce your risk of injury and falling.

• Increased chances of living longer - While the unexpected can still occur, having a healthy lifestyle can go a long way to increasing your lifespan.

Overall, it is clear to see why working out regularly can do wonders for your health. No matter how you choose to get those 150 minutes in, make sure to eat well, stay hydrated, and be mindful of your body to avoid injury. It is vital to remember that consistency and gradual progress are key to making fitness a part of your weekly routine. 

Chloe Page

Chloe Page is a UK-based freelance writer and editor with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Winchester. Over the span of her seven-year freelancing career, Chloe has covered various niches, including health, fitness, plumbing, entertainment, and music. Her work includes interactive fiction, blog posts, and web copy. When she’s not writing, Chloe enjoys streaming, cycling, and trying new recipes.