How often should I exercise?

Everyone is different so it is difficult to say how often an individual should exercise. There are many factors, which would influence this answer such as: your age, fitness level, type of exercise, intensity of exercise, whether you have injuries or illnesses, time factor and your fitness goals. Lets have a look at these factors in a little more detail.

Your Age – Depending on how old you are you will have varying energy levels and workout capabilities. Young people are generally more agile and have higher energy than the elderly. Having said that, it is possible for an older person to be physically fitter than a younger one! The other thing to consider when it comes to age is that the elderly are more prone to brittle bones, which may influence the intensity of exercise they prefer.

Fitness Level – This is probably the most influential variable. You might be completely new to exercise and after having lived a sedentary lifestyle for years, have an extremely low fitness level. Or you might be a seasoned exerciser who hasn't missed a week in years, and therefore can take on a lot more. The main key is to listen to your body. Start slowly and increase as you feel your fitness level improving. If you are doing cardio exercise you might want to do one day on and one day off. Or if you are doing weight training you might way however many days it takes for your muscles not to feel sore anymore. 

A great rule of thumb is to work out your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 and then use the following guideline to work your way to 5 days of exercise a week:

  • Week 1-4. 1-3 times 20-30 minutes at up to 65% MHR
  • Week 5-8. 3 times 30 minutes at 65% to 75% MHR
  • Week 9-12. 4 times 30 minutes at 65% to 75% MHR
  • Week 12-16. 5 times 30 mins at 65% to 75% MHR

Type of exercise – There is a big difference in how many days you can do weight training compared to cardiovascular exercise. If your exercise of choice is walking, then you can likely do it 7 days a week without needing much rest. If you are weight training, however, you will need to give your muscles time to recover, which can sometimes take a few days. Once again, you will have to listen to your body and gauge how many days a week you feel comfortable exercising.

Intensity of exercise - You can work out how intense an exercise is by using a heart rate monitor to see what percentage of your maximum heart rate you average during your workout. If you are above 75% for most of the workout then you can consider it high intensity. If you are below 65% then you would consider it low intensity, and in between is medium intensity. If your workouts push you to the limit and are long in duration you might need more days to recover, however, if you are only in the low intensity zone, then  you might be able to exercise as much as 6-7 days a week.

Injuries and illnesses – Obviously if you have an illness or injury it will affect the type, intensity and duration of your exercise. It is always advised to seek medical advice if you are unsure of what activity you should be doing. Training when you are sick or injured can prolong your injuries and weaken your immune system, so unless it is advised by a medical practitioner you should not be doing it.

Time factor – You may have a busy schedule and can only fit in 30 minutes at a time, or may only be able to exercise on the weekend. Whatever your schedule is, there are exercises you can do to accommodate it. Even 10 minutes are better than nothing! So if you can only do longer workouts a couple of days a week, then you might want to fit in a weights and cardio session back to back, but don't over train on those days either. Make sure you are as active as you can be on the days that you don't have time to "exercise". The fact is that you only exercise for 30-60 minutes a day, so the amount of calories you burn in your every day activities is a lot more. Take advantage of every opportunity – take the stairs instead of the lift, park your car further away, get off the bus on an earlier stop, take the bike or walk to the local shop instead of taking the car. There are many things you can do to be more active in your day to day life.

Fitness Goals – You might be a competitive athlete, or just someone who wants to do the minimal amount of activity to keep their heart healthy. What you want to get out of your workout routine will determine how often, how long and how intense you exercise. If you are trying to lose weight for a special occasion you might go all out leading up to it, and then might back off a bit after its all over! If you exercise to rehabilitate after injury then it may not be a choice, but something you have to do. There are many reasons for us to exercise, the majority of which include achieving greater physical fitness. Whatever your goals, being dedicated to make exercise an integral part of your life will benefit you now and in the future.

Leave a Comment


Previous post:

Next post: