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How many times a week should you work out?

How many times a week should you work out? This is a question many people ask whether you are just beginning a workout program or have been working out for some time with inconsistent results.

While there are generally accepted guidelines for workout amounts, the true answer to this question differs greatly depending on a number of factors.

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Guidelines for how many times a week you should work out are based on several factors.

Personal factors such as age, weight, and health must be taken into account. In addition to this, the type of workout you are doing must be considered.

Are you lifting weights, doing cardio, or a combination of both? Finally, the reason why you are working out is a major factor.

Are you working out to lose weight, gain muscle size and strength, or just to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

How many times a week should you workout when lifting weights versus doing cardio exercise?

The type of exercises you are engaging in affects the number of times a week you should work out.

When engaging in mainly a weight lifting routine, whether it be to lose weight or gain muscle mass, the best option for most people is to train each muscle group two times per week.

Each workout should last for approximately 30-40 minutes.  An example of this plan might look like the following:

  • Monday – work out upper body only
  • Tuesday – work out lower body only
  • Wednesday – day off
  • Thursday - work out upper body only
  • Friday – work out lower body only
  • Saturday – day off
  • Sunday – day off

Some beginners may want to do a less intense work out and train muscles three times per week, while some experienced body builders do a more intense workout and train each muscle group only once per week.

Still, two times a week is the average for the everyday weight lifter. This allows muscles the time they need to recover and rebuild, which leads to muscle growth. Too much time spent lifting weight can overstress muscles leading to possible injury. On the other hand, too little time spent weight training will result in a lack of progress.

If you are mainly doing a cardiovascular workout, the general guidelines are slightly different. Many medical professionals recommend doing cardio an average of three to four times per week for 40-60 minutes.

Another perspective on this is that you should do 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio exercise spread out throughout the week or 75 minutes of high intensity cardio exercise spread throughout the week. Examples of cardio exercises include walking, jogging, swimming, aerobics classes, participating in organized sports, and biking. 

You may want to combine cardio exercise and weight training to maximize the effectiveness of your workout. In general if you are incorporating weight training into your workout you should follow a routine similar to the one listed above.

You combine this with cardio by beginning each workout with approximately 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise prior to lifting weights.

Another option, if you are concerned about conserving your energy for weight lifting is just to begin with a five minute cardio warm up and end your workout after weight training with fifteen minutes of cardio.

You may also choose to do a lower intensity cardio workout on the days off from weight training depending on your schedule.

How many times a week should you work out if you want to lose weight?

When you are beginning a workout plan with the goal to lose weight most professionals recommend a slightly different plan than the one previously discussed. In order to lose weight your caloric output must be greater than your caloric intake.

Dieting is one way to reduce caloric intake; however, dieting and nutrition alone will not produce the effect of both weight loss and toned muscles.

When you diet alone you lose weight from both fat and muscle. Reducing muscle size decreases metabolism which makes it harder to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight over the long term. Therefore, you must always incorporate exercise into any weight loss plan.

When you wish to lose weight most doctors recommend at least 30 minutes a day of some form of cardio exercise five times per week or more. This can be combined with a weight training regimen similar to the two times per week per muscle group routine discussed above.

When you combine weight training with cardio you increase muscle mass, which in turn, increases metabolism and helps you shed the pounds more quickly.

What other things do I need to consider when deciding how often to work out?

When beginning any workout routine you should always consult your doctor first and make sure you have an up to date complete physical.

  • Health: Your overall health can impact the amount of times you should exercise each week.  If you are in poor health or have certain conditions, such as high blood pressure, you may be advised to lower the intensity of your workouts or the number of times you workout each week.
  • Age: An elderly person would not be advised to work out the same number of times per week as someone in their twenties in peak physical condition.
  • Weight: Someone who is considered obese may ultimately have to work out more times per week in order to lose a large amount of weight, however, this person may be advised to start out with exercise in limited amounts until they are healthy enough to increase the amount and intensity of their exercising.

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