How Often Should I Work Out? The Importance of Frequency, Duration & Consistency

By Leo Shveyd, Co-Owner of Advanced Wellness

Before we get to the answer to this common question, let’s distinguish between the concepts of movement, exercising/working out and training.

Movement vs Exercise vs Training

As a coach, I always advocate for my clients to move (gently exercise) everyday (walk, take the stairs, get outside, ride your bike, etc.).  But I know full-well that for most of us living in this busy, modern world, daily movement is only an aspiration as we get trapped by our schedules.  Contrast this with exercise workouts involving physical fitness activities with few or non-specific/non-measurable (i.e. “stay in shape”) goals and training which is usually done by those individuals (i.e. athletes) with a specific, performance-oriented goal in mind.

The Importance of Setting the Right Fitness Goals

At Advanced Wellness, we interview, collaborate and recommend clear goals for our fitness clients to give them progressive milestones to shoot for, moving them towards a “training” mode.  For those clients that are more workout/exercise averse, setting too stringent or too many fitness goals can put excessive pressure on the individual, leading them to lose motivation and potentially quit.  For those people, therefore, we typically pare back requirements and ask them to start by merely showing-up a specific number of times per week; a simple, process-oriented goal that most clients can easily achieve.

Workout Frequency – Duration – Consistency

I am often asked by our clients, “How often should I work out at Advanced Wellness?” Our quick rule of thumb for most people is that if you exercise once a week this will keep you “glued together” (keeps the aches and pains at bay).  Twice-a-week workouts are a nice maintenance program for most experienced trainees, and can actually be progressive for beginners, or someone returning from a long lay-off.  But three times a week is where optimal returns are made when it comes to exercising and even four-times a week can be appropriate and can continue to provide incremental benefit for some.

Working out five (or more) times per week, however, is where we typically start to see some diminishing returns, especially if you are not cognizant of your age (either too young, or too old) and training experience.  Aside from our athlete clients ages 18-25 (a time of life when your body is at peak hormone production, i.e. testosterone and human growth hormone) who have a good year of consistent training experience behind them, our in-house research indicates “more is NOT more”.  In fact, in one 2017 review we conducted at Advanced Wellness, four out of the top five clients at our gym who ended up injuring themselves worked out/exercised at the gym more than 4 times per week on average.  In general, we know that working out too little (i.e. 0-1 times per week) or too frequently (i.e. 5+ per week), especially using the same workout program, are both not ideal.

So where does that leave us?  Two to four workouts per week is ideal for most fitness clients, depending on their goals, age and training experience.  This benchmark obviously needs to be adjusted based on the individual client’s level of progress over time as the person’s goals and fitness levels (strength, mobility, flexibility etc.) change.  Typically, we keep workout sessions at Advanced Wellness to an hour, which we have found as a sufficient, yet efficient, window to provide our clients with a desired training-effect.  Based on the individual’s ability and needs, we may shorten (i.e. 45 minutes) or lengthen (i.e. 75 minutes) the workout.  Working out longer than 60-75 minutes is not necessary, as your body becomes fatigued, new skill acquisition becomes limited and the risk of injury increases.  In fact, it is much more important to consistently workout 2-4 times a week, week after week.  Frequency, duration and consistency. For those that don’t enjoy the pressure of setting and meeting fitness goals, you will be amazed at the results that occur from this simple, processed-based formula (especially when you combine a solid nutrition plan as offered at Advanced Wellness).

In short, we ask our clients to do these 3 things:  Sign-up (for their training/workout sessions), show-up on time and give your best effort.  We will take care of the rest.  While it seems simple, it is far from easy. Finding the time to work out and exercise 2-4 times per week, for approximately 60 minutes each time and do it week after week can be a challenge. But try it and watch what happens.  I bet you you’ll be super proud of yourself and crush your goals.  You won’t regret it!

“Health is Your First Wealth “

Finally, our clients that have the greatest success around fitness also understand “health is my first wealth”, a great quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.   These individuals continue to invest in themselves to be BETTER and live life to the fullest.    They take complete responsibility for their health and nutrition.  They understand that health, fitness and performance is a process and they have a long-term outlook (they have stick-to-itiveness) about deriving the benefits from investing in being healthier and eating right.  They fully acknowledge that there will be roadblocks along the way, but have the fortitude to overcome these in order to reach their goals because they know that they own their power to change.