In general, it is advisable to engage in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day.
But the answer to the question “How long should I work out for?” depends on several factors including your fitness goals, workout type, workout intensity, current fitness level, etc.
Let’s take a closer look at these factors.
1. Your fitness goals
The amount of time you should exercise per week will vary greatly depending on your fitness goals.
a. Weight loss
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends doing fairly rigorous exercise for a minimum of 150–250 minutes per week to lose weight. Split that up in any way you choose: 30-minute sessions, 6 days a week, or 1-hour sessions, 3 days a week.
HIIT is one of the best workout options for weight loss. Studies even show that HIIT is more effective for weight loss as compared to other forms of steady-state cardio such as running, jogging, etc.
But please remember that diet also plays a crucial role in weight loss. If you want to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week, you would have to burn at least 500 to 1000 calories more than you consume per day.
b. Strength gains
If muscle building is your goal, then it is more critical that you do enough volume in terms of sets, reps, and exercises than it is to exercise for a specific period.
Research shows that doing 28-36 reps per muscle group per week is required for building muscle. You can spread that across a few days: be it 2-3 days of full-body routines or 5-6 days of upper /lower body splits.
The amount of time you rest between sets also depends on your goals. As per research, you need 60-90 seconds of rest between sets for hypertrophy, 20-120 seconds for muscular endurance, and 2-5 minutes for strength gain.
c. General fitness
As per The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the average healthy adult should engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Research also suggests that you can spread this out throughout the week with each session lasting a minimum of 10 minutes.
2. Workout type
You just need 20-30 minutes for workouts such as HIIT, circuit training, or an active-recovery workout such as a brisk walk, or Yoga.
For a full-body strength training routine, it would take a minimum of 45-60 minutes to get an effective workout.
3. Workout intensity
The more intense your workout, the less time you need to spend doing it.
For instance, you could go for an hour-long walk before you feel tired, but you might not be able to perform more than 20-30 minutes of a HIIT workout.
4. Current fitness level
If you’re a fitness newbie, it’s always advisable to start slow.
You could aim for 3 to 4 cardio workouts a week for 20 to 40 minutes each session. You could try going for a walk or a light run, or using the treadmill or elliptical at the gym.
For strength training, try doing 30-40 minute full-body strength sessions, twice or thrice a week.
How many days a week should you work out?
Cardio workouts can be done 3-6 days per week, while strength training can be done 2-3 times per week. Ultimately, it’s more about the quality of your training than the quantity.
How long should you rest between workouts?
For strength training, it is recommended to rest for at least 48 hours before exercising the same muscle group.
It is safe to perform light cardio activities such as walking, daily. But for moderate or vigorous cardio activities, we recommend taking a rest day every 3 to 5 days.