- Figuring out how many hours of exercise you need can be tricky
- Meet and exceed recommended minimums to unlock health benefits and reach your goals
- It’s important to find the right balance between different types of training
- How to know if you are exercising too much
One of the most common questions people ask when they begin a new training or workout regimen is how many hours they should spend exercising each week. It would be terrific if there were just one cut and dry answer that worked for everybody, but the reality is that the number of hours you spend exercising will depend on your own unique training and fitness goals.
Whether you are looking to simply get the minimum recommended amount of exercise to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle or you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or train for athletic performance, this guide will help you figure out how many hours you should be exercising each week, and how to balance your exercise hours between different types of training for optimal health and fitness results.
What’s the minimum number of hours you should spend exercising?
1. Aerobic Exercise (Cardio) An important place to begin when considering the number of hours you should be exercising each week is with the recommended minimum amounts of exercise for achieving substantial health benefits. These figures provide an important baseline and foundation upon which you can build to meet and exceed your training and exercise goals. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS), adults need to perform at least 2.5-5 hours (150-300 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. These moderate-intensity aerobic exercises can take the form of many recognizable activities that may already be part of your lifestyle. Some moderate- intensity cardio exercises include brisk walking, swimming, casual cycling, playing sports, and gardening. If 2.5-5 hours seems like a lot, you can substitute vigorous forms of aerobic exercise, such as running, jumping rope, climbing stairs or hills with a weighted backpack, robust cycling, singles tennis, or aerobic dance (ie. Zumba). If you only perform vigorous forms of aerobic exercise like these, the recommended minimum number of hours is cut in half—1.25-2.5 hours (75-150 minutes).
The HHS recommendations allow for a great degree of flexibility in your own personalized training and exercise regime.
Moderate and vigorous exercises can be combined to meet your minimums. For example, if you run for 25 minutes, three times a week, you will easily achieve 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. However, if you wish to run only twice per week, you can substitute a single 50-minute session or two 25-minute sessions of moderate-intensity exercise, such as casual cycling or gardening. In reality, the options for achieving the recommended minimums are limitless, and the HHS guidelines acknowledge that exceeding 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise or 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity exercise brings additional health benefits.
In addition to aerobic exercise/cardio training, the HHS guidelines recommend that adults perform muscle-strengthening exercise at least 2 days per week. According to the Cleveland Clinic and Livestrong Foundation, beginners should perform strength training for 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times per week. More experienced individuals can increase this to 30-40 minutes of strength training, 3-4 times per week. For muscle growth and protein synthesis, add L-Glutamine to your diet For the professional athlete or bodybuilder, these amounts may not seem like a lot, but research has shown that significant gains in strength and muscle mass are possible at these levels of exercise particularly for beginners.
It’s a common misconception that you need to spend endless hours in the gym every week to achieve significant results.
If you follow the science-based recommendations for strength training, the minimum hours per week you need to spend on these exercises comes in at around 1-1.5 hours (60-90 minutes) for beginners, or 2-3 hours (120-180 minutes) for more advanced individuals. Of course, if you are training professionally or for competition, your specific goals may require a heavier workout schedule, but you can still make significant achievements with these recommended amounts.
Optimizing your hours spent exercising
To summarize the above recommendations, it’s advisable for adults to aim for at least 2.5-5 hours of moderate/vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week and at least 1.5-3 hours of strength training per week. Ideally, these hours should be spread throughout your week. Getting some exercise everyday, whether aerobic or strength training, is the best option. When you tally it all up the total amount of exercise you need per week falls between 5-8 hours or around 45-70 minutes per day. Something that’s important to keep in mind when thinking about these figures is that they don’t necessarily have to be achieved in the gym, and if you do spend time in the gym on strength-training exercises, that time may also count towards your aerobic exercise totals. Many forms of strength training inherently get your heart rate up and blood pumping during your workout. If you currently have a strength training and weightlifting workout regime, it’s likely you are easily achieving the muscle-strengthening component of the recommendations, but you may be lacking in the aerobic component. If you dislike vigorous cardio, like running on the treadmill, there are other options to help you optimize your exercise hours and support your overall health and fitness. Lighter-intensity exercises such as core/abdominal training, stretching, yoga, and pilates can help bring balance to your exercise regime and to your body. Too much of one type of exercise—weightlifting included—can lead to imbalance or injury. Time spent on these lighter-intensity aerobic and strength exercises still counts towards your total amount of exercise and each contributes their own unique benefits to your overall health and well-being.
How to know if you’re exercising too much
Although there’s no established maximum for how much exercise you should get, it is possible to get too much exercise, and your body will quickly begin to let you know if you are overworking it. Here are a few signs and symptoms that can reveal you are exercising too much or at an intensity that doesn’t match your current fitness level:
- Being unable to lift/exercise at the same weight/intensity as during prior workouts
- Feeling tired or lethargic and needing longer periods of rest
- Constantly feeling sore muscles or heavy limbs
- Developing injuries from overuse
- Losing motivation and feeling anxious or depressed
- Frequently getting sick or coming down with colds
- Unintentionally losing weight
If you are exercising a lot and suffer from any of these symptoms, it’s advisable to rest completely or pull back from your current level of activity. Serious symptoms and injuries should always be addressed with your doctor or other medical professional.
Getting enough rest, recovery, and proper nutrition is critical to any exercise plan.
Ultimately, it’s important to find a balance between aerobic exercise, strength training, and other forms of exercise. Spending too many hours on one type of exercise can result in your body performing less than optimally. A well-rounded approach to your training program will ensure that the hours you do spend exercising give you the best possible results, and the hours you spend fueling, resting, and recovering support those goals. Proper nutrition and supplementation is another critical component of any exercise regime. That’s why Allmax carries a comprehensive range of professional-grade supplements that meet all of your performance nutrition needs. Whether you’re looking for essential vitamins, weight-loss or weight-gain supplements, protein powders, or pre-workout and recovery supplements, allmaxnutrition.com has something for everyone.
- “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: 2nd Edition” https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf
- Cleveland Clinic https://health.clevelandclinic.org/four-mistakes-avoid-lifting-weights/
- Livestrong https://www.livestrong.com/article/359017-how-much-time-should-i-spend-lifting-weights/
- Medline Plus https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000807.htm