It really depends on what your goals are.
I have gone from exercising 6 – 7 days per week for 2 – 4 hours at a time (don’t do that!) to working out for 30 minutes 3 times per week (depending on the situation, this may or may not be enough).
So which is best? How much is too little and how much is too much?
When it comes to exercise, nothing is too little. Any exercise is beneficial to our health. Even a 10 minute walk to work 5 times a week is better than no walking at all. Exercising too much is definitely posible and it’s called overtraining. When you do this, you don’t give your body time to recover, which ends up in less muscle gain – in fact, it can cause you to lose muscle mass – and can even result in injuries.
Your minimum exercise requirements will depend on your personal fitness and health goals.
For overall health, an hour long brisk walk 3 – 5 times per week would be suficient. You can even go hiking for 3 hours on just one day! Walking has been proven time and time again to improve cardiovascular fitness, lower stress hormones and the like. You can add this walk before or after work/school, before dinner (or after), or do it spontaneously on the weeked! You can add these walks by simply ditching your car now and then on your way to the store or to pick up the kids. It doesn’t have to be a walk around the block either. You can ride a bike, go hiking, sightseeing or take a low intensity cardio class or maybe even a dance class!
If you want to keep fat at bay, improve your fitness level and boost cardiovascular health even more, add short High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts 1 or 2 times per week. I like the 10-20-30 training researchers came up with in Denmark. It only takes 12 minutes! (19 minutes if you do a third interval). Either way, not very long. Basically you jog for 30 seconds, run faster for 20 seconds then go on an all-out sprint for 10 seconds. Repeat this 5 times (5 minutes), walk slowly for 2 minutes and then repeat the 5 minute intervals again. Cool down and you’re done! This can also be done on a bicycle, treadmill, the park, up and down bleachers (careful with your knees!) whatever you want to do that you can vary intensity through and go all-out for 10 seconds and don’ do more than 20 minutes at a time.
If on top of keeping your heart healthy and keeping fit you want to alsostrengthen and tone your muscles, then you can add a 10 to 30 minute strength training workouts up to 3 times per week. Work out your entire body by doing compund exercises, or a good combination of exercises that hit all your muscles. Like a combination of pushups, squats, crunches, planks and lunges for example. If you do each type of exercise for about a minute and do 2 sets, that is only 20 minutes! I will post some compound exercise videos/photos soon. The more muscles you target in one movement, the shorter your workout will be!
The key is balance. Don’t overdo it. Here are some examples of what an active week can look like. Of course your days off can vary, and you can always combine activities, as long as you don’t overexert yourself. Also, remember to REST the day after a HIIT session or a strength training session! Your body needs time to recover and that is when you become stronger! Also, don’t forget you must pair this with a healthy, balanced diet! Check out the first steps for tips on adjusting your food intake.
|Toned, Strong and Lean||Heart Healthy, Toned||Heart Healthy, Toned||Heart healthy|
(15 minutes) &
Yoga (15 minutes)
|Saturday:||2-3 hours walking /
|OFF||Hiking / Biking day
|Yoga / Cardio Class /
When I was exercising all week for 2 – 4 hours per day, I was lean and toned, but not as much as I have been on less severe schedules. I had a Golds Gym membership and I got a little carried away. I was only 16% body fat, but my muscles were breaking down. I was just really skinny. When I lowered the frequency and duration of my workouts (2 hours/ 4 times per week), I of course gained some body fat back (I was around 18 – 20 %, still low for a woman) but my muscles were actually developing! I got stronger than I had ever been and I was still lean, not just skinny. Then I moved to Japan and stopped doing anything for a few months and gained about 15 pounds. I’ve been tweaking my workouts and diet and have found that this combination of walking a few times per week, HIIT and strength training and good rest makes me feel great and I feel strong, my muscles are looking toned and my belly is pretty flat! My week looks like the first example on the right most of the time.
I hope this post is helpful in deciding what exercise to do and how often do do it. Like I said, my goal is to achieve the most I can with as little effort as possible!
Also, check out this article that talks a little bit about the physiological differences between overtraining and working out to reap the benefits!