People ask me this question often and want the one right answer.
There is no one right answer, but our bodies do well with frequent movement. It would be optimal to move every day.
But how you move every day is important too. You don’t need to go all-out hard every day, and going too easy every day won’t help you as much either. When you are lifting hard, heavy, or doing HIIT training (links) you’ll want to add some lower intensity days. If you are healthy and conditioned, doing all lower intensity days will decondition you.
So how many days should you exercise? It’s not rocket science, but there are lots of right answers to this question and none the same from person to person. Read on to learn about what is best for you right now.
Factors to Consider
Let’s start here:
What are your goals?
Do you have a deadline for your goals?
What is your schedule like?
What Are Your Goals?
Do you have an event to prepare for, like an athletic competition or a wedding? Does this event require you to compete physically, or do you just want to look great? If you don’t have an event to prepare for, are your goals related to health? You might have short term health goals like reaching a certain percent of body fat, or a certain amount on your bench press. Or, you can have truly long term goals like maintaining your conditioning and balance all your life.
I encourage you to think hard about what you want, both short term and long term. “I want to be healthy” is GREAT, but pretty vague. I want to be healthy all my life too. I want to be hiking to remote natural hot springs, moving the furniture when I want, doing my own lawn work, maintaining healthy blood pressure and body composition. Think specifically about what you really want to do next year, and when you are old.
Do You Have a Deadline for Your Goals?
Like your short term and long time goals, consider if you have timelines for these. If you have an event, do you have to peak to be at your best physically? Do you want to feel good in your own skin at a reunion or beach vacation? If you have a short term goal coming up quickly and you intend to meet it, you’ll have to prioritize exercise more.
You can have short and long term goals. In fact, I recommend it. They keep you moving, and keep that sense of relevance. It’s easy to put off working toward a 10-year goal until tomorrow, but not as easy to put off working toward a beach vacation next month.
What is Your Schedule Like?
I do want you to prioritize your health at all times, but it’s important to understand that sometimes life demands a lot of your energy elsewhere. Post -injury, -surgery, -childbirth, during some school or work programs, and caring for a sick loved one, might chronically stress and drain you. In these situations, you do what you can. Your goal is to take care of your body to the extent that you can now, so you are healthy when you can push it later.
Scheduling 5 sessions a week in your busiest time in life, then missing them and feeling guilty leads to a depression spiral. Instead, be honest about what you can do. Do you have a pocket of time on Saturday mornings, and 15 minutes after the kids go to bed? In that case, you can schedule in a full training session on Saturday and quick movements a couple other days a week. Even ten minute walks once a day add up.
How Many Days Should You Workout?
The final answer is that you should consider how many days you need to workout given the proximity to your goals. Be reasonable about how much you can do. You can’t do 3 months of work in a week, so give yourself plenty of time but work hard. Likewise, keep your long term health in mind and exercise even if it’s 1 day a week.
Remember every season of you life will be different. You will be able to give more physically in some stages of life than others. If you do the best with what you have, whether it’s 2 quick sessions a week or 6, you’ll always be at your best. If you are in a period where you don’t have as much to give, do your best to take care of yourself and get through that time. When you have the time and energy, take advantage of it!
The bottom line is, do what you can even if it doesn’t feel like much. It all adds up! Email me if you have questions about your situation!