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How Often Should You Exercise? The Optimal Range for the Results You Want

Diet and exercise are a vital part of self-improvement if you want to get fit, gain lean muscle mass, or lose weight. However, it’s not as simple as saying ‘exercise.’ You have to know what your fitness goals are and what you’re willing to commit to, as well as what your body can take before you start an exercise regimen.

We’ll give you some rough ideas on answering the question of how often should you exercise, as well as what you should do. However, the ultimate authority is your doctor. Always consult your doctor before making any significant lifestyle changes in case there are medical issues of which he or she should be aware.


Exercise has many health benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Improving circulation
  • Fighting depression
  • Building muscle mass
  • Strengthening the heart and lungs
  • Maintaining brain functions

Now we’ll focus on how often you should exercise for each type of goal.

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If your goal is to burn fat, your best bet for exercise is going to be cardio. Cardiovascular workouts force your heart and lungs to work in overdrive to keep oxygen in your blood and muscles, so they continue working at the increased pace you’re demanding. Cardiovascular workouts include running, swimming, boxing, martial arts, and anything that causes you to break a sweat or get out of breath.

If you find yourself barely able to hold a conversation, you’re working at the right intensity.As far as frequency, it varies depending on the rest of your workout regimen. Cardio should be a backbone of almost any program. To start getting the results you want, you should aim for at least 150 minutes of cardio per week. These are the recommended minimums, and you may want to do more depending on your goals.

To burn fat, you need to have a sustained elevated heart rate for at least 20 minutes. At this point, the body starts having to burn fat to produce energy because it will have worked off whatever food you recently ate. This figure, bear in mind, is a rough estimate. Everyone’s body type and needs vary. What works for one person may not necessarily work for you. It’s up to you to experiment and figure out what approach works best.

A good starting point, if you’re just starting to do cardio, is to spend about 30 minutes per day doing light jogging on the treadmill. Set it to the incline setting if possible. Working on an incline means your muscles and heart and lungs are all working harder to keep you going. However, you won’t be able to last as long with an incline.

You need to do at least 150 minutes of cardio per week. How you break this down is up to you. Some people prefer to do all their cardio on one day, but most prefer to split it over two or three days to maintain consistent performance. You may not be able to get to the gym, but you can still take a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes per day.

Doing this will give you enough cardiovascular exercise to start. You can increase the amount as and when you feel comfortable doing so.

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Another question about how often should you exercise is learning about strength training. Also called resistance training, this category of exercise forces your muscles to work against the weight to perform a given action. You’re either pressing against a machine, lifting weights, or doing body-weight exercises like pushups and pull-ups. 

Unlike cardio, strength training tends to push your muscles to their accustomed limit. The reason for this is because every time you do strength workouts, you’re creating small tears in your muscle tissue.After a recovery period, the body recognizes that the muscle needs to be stronger to meet the same level of stress, and then uses the protein you eat to rebuild the tissue. 

To do this, your body has to have rest periods between workouts. Different schools of thought exist on how long these breaks should be. Some say two days, others say three, and others say just one day. It depends on your resilience and how quickly you want results.

The best option is probably to wait two days between working for different muscle groups. For example, you would work on your arms and chest one day, your core and back the next, and of course, leg day. You might then devote a full day to cardio, on top of mild cardio on the other days. On each day, you’d focus on one muscle group and let it rest.

Another primary school of thought in fitness says that you need to perform a mild full-body workout each day aside from your rest day to get the best results. If you’re getting started with a new workout program, this is likely the best option. The problem with targeted workouts is that it’s easy to get focused on the parts you want to develop.

For most people it’s the upper body, hence the meme about never skipping leg day. By working your whole body, you ensure that all your muscles get equal attention and grow evenly. Once your muscles are strong enough to support your core, you can change it up. Even if you do targeted workouts, you should probably take one day to do a full-body workout to keep things even.

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Conventional wisdom says that if you want to increase your muscle, you can’t bulk and tone at the same time. Bulking up, or adding muscle, requires you to eat more calories than you use and use the extra protein to add the muscle. Once you’ve gotten where you want, you then have to trim the fat away from muscle tissue.

Exercising for toning focuses on maintaining what you have. However, you’ll have to scale your cardio back up to resume the fat-burning process. You’ll find it easier this time. The reason you’ll notice your cardio and diet to be more useful is that you have a higher metabolism when you add muscle. Muscle tissue requires energy to maintain, so the body increases its metabolism to adapt.

To exercise for tone, go with a moderate-intensity full body workout every other day — fit light cardio in after your workouts. On your off days, you’ll need to do heavy cardio. Instead of 150 minutes of cardio each week, you might try increasing it to 180 minutes or even higher. It depends on how quickly you want to tone up. Just don’t go on a crash diet; you’ll ruin your effort.

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Speaking of diet, you need to have proper nutrition in conjunction with exercise to make the improvements you want to make. First, you need to have enough calories in your daily intake to offset your base metabolic rate. Generally, for adults, this is 2000 – 2500 calories per day. 

Check the calorie count on whatever you eat. Also, you need high amounts of protein to provide the raw material for muscle tissue. For heavy workouts like you engage in at first, you should be aiming for a gram of protein per pound of body weight.Protein comes from lean meat, nuts, milk, cheese, various vegetables, and other sources. 

Even if you don’t like one type of food, you can still get your protein through supplements and similar items. This is when you’re in the building phase of your workout program. When you’re ready to start toning, you want to trim your calorie count to lower than what you eat because toning is about removing the fat from over the muscles.

Maintain your habit of eating healthily, with plenty of lean meat, vegetables, and fruit. It can be easy to lapse into old habits, but not doing so reduces the likelihood of sabotaging your efforts.

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If you can manage, it’s best to do your workout in the morning and then eat a hearty breakfast to get started with your day. Exercise boosts your energy and metabolism, making it more likely that you’ll remain alert throughout the day even if you have to sit at a desk the whole shift. 

Note that you need to work out before you have your meal: otherwise, you’re just burning the calories you just ate. The idea of eating a big meal after working out is to provide the extra protein to aid in the rebuilding process for the muscles.

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When asking the question of how often should you exercise, you need to always consult your doctor or a personal trainer for professional guidance. They might have a better eye for observation of your progress. They can then help you tailor and adapt your exercise program as needed to help you reach your goals. Ultimately, every person is different, and it’s going to take experimentation in your workout plan to figure out what works best for you.

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