Woman stretching legs before running on the track, wearing black and white leggings and an orange top

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

We all know that exercise is good for our health, but how much do we really need? The answer to that depends on several things, as we are all unique individuals with different health goals.

First, we’ll find out what the professionals say regarding exercise frequency. Then I’ll give you some weekly exercise schedules, to help you see how to fit your workouts into your busy week. And finally, I’ll have some questions to ask yourself, to help clarify your health and fitness goals.

Professional guidelines

Before we decide on a weekly workout schedule, what do the experts say regarding exercise frequency?

For cardiovascular health, the CDC (Center for Disease Control), the Mayo Clinic, and also the American Heart Association, all agree:

Healthy adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, OR 75 minutes (1.25 hours) of vigorous aerobic exercise per week (OR a combination of moderate/vigorous activity).

Note that the minimum amount suggested is just for baseline health. For even greater health benefits, it is suggested to get 300 minutes (5 hours) or more of aerobic exercise per week.

In addition, is also suggested that adults get in at least 2 strength-training sessions per week. Each major muscle group should be trained, using a resistance heavy enough to tire the muscles after 12 to 15 reps.

The breakdown

So what does this mean, in terms of how much you should exercise on a daily/weekly basis? There are many different ways to spread out your exercise time throughout the week. How you do it depends on several factors, such as your work schedule, family/relationship obligations, your fitness goals, and other activities you do during the week.

For basic health

First, let’s start with the minimum recommendations for moderate exercise/vigorous exercise, and think about how to fit workouts into your day/week:

For 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate activity per week, you could split that up in lots of different ways. Here are a few examples of how you could schedule your weekly workouts:

  • Exercise for 30 minutes 5 days in a row, then take 2 rest days (for example, workout Monday through Friday, and take Saturday and Sunday off).
  • Workout 30 minutes a few days in a row, take a rest day, then workout another few days, then another rest day (for example, exercise Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, rest Thursday, exercise Friday, Saturday, rest Sunday).
  • Have an exercise session for 1 hour, 2 days a week, and 30 minutes 1 day (for example, workout for 1 hour on Monday and Wednesday, and 30 minutes on Saturday). This option gives you 4 free days that you could use for rest, and/or doing your strength training workouts.

For 75 minutes (1.25 hours) of vigorous exercise per week, there are also lots of options for splitting up your workout time. Here are several suggestions:

  • Workout intensely for 15 minutes, 5 days a week (for example, you could do all your workouts during the weekdays, leaving you 2 days to rest on the weekends). With this schedule, incorporating strength training sessions on a few days would be easy, since you are only doing cardio for 15 minutes.
  • Exercise for 20 minutes for 3 days, and 15 minutes on 1 day (this option gives you 3 days to rest and/or strength train).

For even better health benefits

It is great to have a basic exercise program in place, but by stepping up the amount and frequency of our workouts, there are even more benefits to be gained! If that’s what you’re looking for, then the experts recommend 300 minutes (5 hours) or more of exercise per week.

Harvard researchers and a few international universities conducted a study over a 30-year time period. The results were published by the American Heart Association in 2018. It was found that lower mortality rates were seen in those who exercised 2 to 4 times more than the recommended minimum amount.

Exercising for 5 hours a week can be a big time commitment. It can require a bit more planning to fit into a busy life, but it is definitely doable (and worthwhile)! Here are a few schedule ideas:

  • Workout 1 hour for 5 days, with 2 days off (Monday-Friday, weekends off)
  • Workout Monday, Wednesday, Friday-Sunday (Tuesday and Thursday off)
  • Monday and Tuesday off, and workout Wednesday -Sunday
  • Workout for 1 hour 4 days, then on 2 days workout for 30 minutes (1 rest day)
  • Exercise 1 hour for 2 days, then 1.5 hours for 2 days

Just as with the basic 2.5-hour weekly exercise plan, the 5-hour-a-week plan should also include both cardio and strength workout components. Both are vital to good health!

As you can see, there are various different ways to arrange your weekly workout schedule. The ones I have listed are just a few to consider. It all really depends on what other obligations you have, and the time of day (or evening) you have available to workout.

What are my goals?

When deciding how much time and effort we want to devote to exercising, getting clarity on our fitness and health goals can be helpful.

We all have different bodies, lifestyles, and levels of ability. So it makes sense that our fitness goals would also be different. We also have different reasons for wanting to exercise. Here are a few things to ask yourself:

  1. Do I want to lose, gain, or maintain my weight?
  2. Do I have any medical issues?
  3. Do I want to build muscle and/or strength, or just “get toned”?
  4. Am I training for a specific sport?
  5. Am I wanting to improve my cardio and/or muscular endurance?

After answering these questions, it will be easier to decide just how much time you will spend working out on a daily/weekly basis.

woman, running, run

In summary

Our bodies are made for movement, and our health depends on getting at least a minimum amount of exercise to keep illness and debility at bay. The experts have recommended at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise or 1.25 hours of vigorous exercise weekly.

We also know that going above the minimum exercise recommendations increases the benefits even more. Doubling the amount of exercise time to 5 hours per week can significantly decrease the chances of serious illness. In addition to that, the more physically fit we are, the more we can enjoy our life. With more strength, stamina, and endurance, everything we do becomes easier and more enjoyable!

I hope that the scheduling examples I provided will help you to fit regular exercise into your life. It just takes a little planning, but the rewards are entirely worth it!

Please let me know in the comments below what your workout schedule is, and if it’s working for you (or not). I’d love to hear how you make exercise a regular part of your life! ?

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