Continuous exercise is one of the most important aspects of achieving your health goals. But, is it better to work out every day or every other day?
While you should stay active every day (through light cardio like brisk walking), intense exercising every day may not be the best solution, especially so if you do the same routines. The appropriate frequency of exercise depends on where you are in your training and what you want to achieve.
There is no single answer to this question, but if you want to find a more definite one based on your needs and current state, read on and get more information on a healthy exercise plan.
How Often You Should Exercise
Figuring out an exercise plan is one of the first steps you’ll take on your road to better health. However, it’s not always the easiest one. And one of the most common questions people have is how often they should exercise.
The answer to this question depends on many different factors — most notably, whether you are a beginner, an intermediate exerciser, or an advanced one, as well as what you want to achieve.
If you are an overall beginner in the world of fitness, you can start by training 2-3 times a week, while remaining lightly active on your off days. For example, you can take a brisk 30-minute walk or jog for 25 minutes.
This will help you feel more prepared for your exercise days. Combine the most important forms of exercise into your routine and create a variety for your body. Increase the number of exercise days as you go and be gentle on yourself — you don’t want injuries.
However, if you have a specific goal in mind, here are some recommendations.
For Weight Loss
If your goal is to lose weight, your routine will be a bit more intense than if you just wanted to exercise for the sake of being healthy. Of course, when just starting out, exercise for 2 to 3 days a week and be active in between through simple activities.
But once your body adapts to this routine — or even sooner — increase the amount of time you spend exercising.
For one, you should do intense training two days a week and do moderate exercise 2 days a week as well.
On days of moderate exercise, you can jog, swim, take walks, dance, etc. Make it fun for you on those moderate days. You can also do yoga or tai chi for balance and stretching. Look into some fun dance lessons since they provide a cardio exercise and a bit of strength training that will allow you to speed up your weight loss process.
On days of intense exercise, include some high-intensity interval training and weight lifting. Vigorous aerobic activity also helps. Remember to vary your exercise routines, include different workouts, etc. More on the importance of this later. Furthermore, remember to take rest days. This will help your body recover and be more ready to work on your exercise days.
Most of the weight loss comes from a calorie deficit, so remember to eat healthily and nourish your body. Naturally, the more calories you burn, the better.
For Weight Maintenance
If you just want to exercise as a way to maintain your weight or stay healthy, your exercise routine will be a bit easier than the one for weight loss.
General recommendations are that you should have:
- One hundred fifty minutes of moderate activity per week — you can split it up into 30 minutes of activity five days a week and make it fun for you. But, even jogging or swimming works.
- Seventy-five minutes of intense activity every week — you can also split it up into 25 minutes 3 days a week. This should include weight lifting, HIIT, or vigorous aerobic activity.
For Muscle Gain
Muscle gain will help you increase your BMR, become stronger and healthier as well. However, it requires some strenuous training and continuous exercise to make it work in the long term. The level of activity you’ll need to gain muscles will depend on where you are in your training. For example, a beginner will need a lot less time and effort to see a change than an advanced exerciser.
- Beginners. For beginners, the best plan is to do strength training and HIIT 3 days a week until they hit a plateau in muscle gain. Then, they can transition into the plan for intermediate users.
- Intermediate. For intermediate exercisers, the best plan is to do strength training four days a week. However, you should also do at least 2 to 3 days of 25 minutes of vigorous cardio to boost your progress.
- Advanced. Finally, if you are at an advanced stage, you should do at least five days of strength training or do three days of exercise, one day of rest, and then repeat. Also, you should include HIIT or cardio to your routine.
Why Is Variety Important in Exercise?
As mentioned several times, the variety is extremely important when looking to lose weight or gain muscles. There are several reasons for this. Here are some of them.
Imagine eating the same thing every day or doing the same things every day — wouldn’t it be boring?
Well, it’s the same with exercise. Your mind will not be challenged, and you’ll start to avoid working out just to avoid the monotony. This is why your exercise routine should involve different types of exercise and why you should switch it up often.
For example, instead of jogging every day of the week, try a Zumba class. Instead of doing the same HIIT exercise, try some new ones. Instead of sun salutations every morning, do new asanas. All of this will boost your chances of sticking with your routine and reaching your goal.
To Prevent Adaptation
Just like your mind, your body adapts to a challenge quickly.
Sure, in your first few days, that new exercise routine will be hard, and you’ll feel it. But, after a week or so of repetition, your body will no longer find it that difficult, and you’ll plateau.
Diversity will also help you achieve different goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, but also build some muscles, you would do a mix of HIIT or aerobic and weight lifting.
To Create a Challenge
Your mind and body need to be challenged to perform at their best. So, just like a monotonous routine can cause a plateau, a new routine can help you overcome it, whether your goal is to lose weight or gain muscles.
It can be just adding more weight to your weights or running a bit farther, or it can be a completely new thing — like transitioning from weight lifting to barre. All of this creates a new challenge for you to overcome.
The Most Important Forms of Exercise
For your reference, here are some forms of exercise that you should mix and match to get the best results:
- Aerobic or cardio are those activities that will get your heart pumping and make your cardiovascular system work better. It includes walking, running, swimming, jumping rope, various sports, dances, and so on.
- Strength or resistance training increases your muscle mass, and it involves exercises from HIIT, lifting weights, using resistance bands, etc.
- Stretching or flexibility training can help you become better prepared for other forms of exercise and prevent injuries. You can do yoga, tai chi, pilates, etc.
Once you figure out your goals and your current status in the exercise world, use these tips as references on your exercise frequency. Furthermore, remember to eat properly, in a way that will nourish your body and support it through your type of exercise.
Give yourself rest days, but try to remain active through short brisk walks or something else that would be fun for you.
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- Pub Med: Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
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- NCBI: Physiological adaptations to resistance exercise as a function of age
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- Harvard Health: Physical activity guidelines: How much exercise do you need?
- NCBI: High-intensity interval training for health benefits and care of cardiac diseases – The key to an efficient exercise protocol
- Harvard Health: Healthy Eating Plate