How Much Should You Exercise per Week?
When you don’t want your life to revolve around fitness, but would still like to get results from your workouts, there’s a minimum amount of exercise you should do (and it’s less than you think), but there’s also a maximum (because more exercise isn’t always better).
With some specific advice and a little guidance, I can help you decide how much YOU should exercise each week.
Answer This First
Our family likes to play the game “Would You Rather…” With two young kids, it makes for some unique proposals. The other day my 3-year-old asked, “Would you rather eat the moon, or eat the moon?”
It was a tough choice, but I went with the moon.
Now I have one for you. Would you rather:
Work out intensely 7 days a week, never eat pizza again, and be in the best shape of your life, OR…
Take a pill once a day so you never have to exercise again, eat whatever you want, and also be in the best shape of your life?
If you picked option “1,” I’ll just tell you now, this blog isn’t for you.
Not that you have to hate exercise to get something out of this. Personally, I don’t mind working out, I just have a lot going on. So, while I’m not concerned about finding some magic pill, I’m even less enthused about the idea of diet and exercise consuming every waking moment of my life.
If you’re like me — or even if you do dislike working out — the amount of exercise you plan to do every week needs to reflect those feelings, otherwise it’s just not realistic.
Realistic but Effective
Finding what’s realistic for you is all about listing the priorities for what will be most effective for your goals. Then just work your way down that list, only as far as you can, based on the amount of time you feel able to commit to the process.
If you’re like most of our clients and want to lose weight so you can feel better and have more energy, your top 3 priorities should look like this:
Healthy eating habits that promote weight loss
Strength-based workouts (e.g. bodyweight exercises or lifting weights)
Being active, independent of exercise
Our clients average just 2-3 days of specific, strength-based exercise per week (with each workout lasting roughly 30 minutes) as well as 1-3 days where they find intentional ways to stay active with “extra activity” (walking, gardening, playing with kids, etc.).
That means they’re doing something — whether it be exercise or just being active (see the difference here) — anywhere from 3-6 days per week.
That gives you an idea of what you might need to do to accomplish your goals, but it’s still a pretty wide range. So how do you decide how much exercise YOU should do based on this?
Looking at the priorities for weight loss in the above example, it’s important that you not try to do it all at once (unless you have a coach who can help walk you through it).
To determine how much exercise you should aim for each week, there are 2 things you need to be honest about:
1. Your abilities.
The first priority for weight loss in the list I gave was diet. If you have a particularly difficult time with that, you might need to start out skipping exercise altogether (for a short time) and instead work on ways to improve your eating habits.
On the other hand, once you’re in a groove with your diet, you may find that 2 days of exercise comes pretty easy for you but you stay fairly inactive otherwise. Rather than more workouts, you’d be better served adding in more “extra activity” days.
Stick to exercising only so much that you’re still able to work on the other priorities on the list.
2. Your commitment.
Don’t try to do 7 days of exercise/activity if you really only have time (or tolerance) for 3 days. Set a realistic starting point and see how much you can work on with the time you have.
Use the average of 2-3 days of exercise and 1-3 days of extra activity as your starting point, but start on the low end, even if it’s literally just 2 exercise days. I’d rather you start too low and have room to grow than start too high and burn out.
Setting Your Priorities
There are exceptions to these guidelines.
For instance, you may not have a lot of time for fitness, but you prefer the habit of doing something daily. A valid option would be to work out 10 minutes every day rather than 30 minutes 2-3 times per week.
You might also be better off just exercising a few minutes here and there, taking breaks to get up and move around during the work week.
The guidelines I gave are a great place to start, but in reality, there are countless ways to do this.
If you’re still unsure of what’s best for you and you’re on the fence about hiring a coach, our 45-minute consultation call would be a way to get answers. We’ll help you outline an effective, personalized plan to get you started.
There’s no obligation to commit to our coaching, and either way you’ll walk away knowing exactly how many days you should work out, what type of diet you should follow, and having all your questions answered.