How Much Should You Exercise per Week?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for how often you should exercise, or for how long those individual workouts should be.
However, if you don’t want your life to revolve around fitness, but would still like to get significant results from your efforts, there’s a range you should shoot for. With some specific advice and a little guidance, I can help you decide where to set your sights within that range.
Answer This First
Our family likes to play the game “Would You Rather…” With two young kids, it makes for some unique proposals. For instance, the other day my 3-year-old asked me, “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 7 days a week, never eat another carb, and be in the best shape of your life, OR…
Take a pill once a day so you never have to exercise again and can eat whatever you want and still 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 in that way, 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 prioritizing 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.
For instance, if your goal is to lose weight so you can feel better and have more energy, your priorities should look something like this:
Healthy eating habits that promote weight loss
Strength-based workouts (e.g. bodyweight exercises or lifting weights)
Being active, independent of exercise
Pretty much everything else
Because this is a common goal for the people we work with, our clients average 2-3 days of specific, strength-based exercise per week (with each workout lasting roughly 30 minutes) as well as 1-2 days where they find ways to stay active with what we label as “extra activity.”
That means they’re doing something — whether it be exercise or just being active (see the difference here) — anywhere from 3-5 days per week.
And that’s just an average.
It gives you a good 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?
You could take the items in the list I made and break them down into subcategories to get an even more specific idea of what to work on. Or you may have a totally different list of priorities for an entirely separate goal.
Regardless of what your list looks like exactly, there are 3 things you can learn from the above example to determine how much exercise you should aim for each week.
1. You need to know your priorities.
You can’t make any exercise plans until you know what to work on. So make a list. If you have no idea what the priorities should be for your goal, I’ll tell you how we can help you with that in a minute.
2. Be honest about 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 in your list with the time you have.
Use the average of 2-3 days of exercise and 1-2 days of extra activity as your starting point. If you’re still unsure, 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.
3. Only use as much of your list as what fits your commitment.
The first priority in the example I gave was diet. If you have a particularly difficult time with that, you might just need to spend your “exercise time” working on ways to improve your eating habits. Meaning you start out not exercising at all.
On the other hand, maybe you have a good handle on the first 3 items in the list and feel confident you could do more with the time you have. That’s when you can consider adding something that may not be as big of a priority, but still has other benefits, like a moderate amount of cardio for your heart health.
Setting Your Priorities
There are exceptions to these guidelines.
For instance, you may not have a lot of time for fitness, but you might still prefer doing a little bit every day. So maybe that means you work out 10 minutes each day rather than 30 minutes 2-3 times per week.
Or maybe you’re better off just exercising a few minutes here and there, taking breaks to get up and move around during the work week.
There are countless ways to do this.
If you’re still unsure about what’s best for you, but are on the fence about hiring a coach, our 45-minute consultation call might be a good fit for you. We’ll help you outline an effective, personalized plan to get you started.
It’s only $50, and if you do decide that our coaching system is right for you, you can apply that payment to your first month. But there’s no obligation, 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.