There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to getting more exercise. Daily schedules and specific goals influence exercise time and intensity. These three scenarios will help you determine what types of workouts are best for you whether you have only a few minutes or several hours a week to commit to your plan.
You exercise three to four days per week.
A recent survey conducted at a UK-based fitness center found that only 39 minutes of every hour at the gym is spent exercising. The rest is taken up by chatting, adjusting gear and clothing, and searching for the right workout song. If you only have three to four days to exercise, you can’t afford to waste this valuable time. Fewer days to workout means you need a more focused commitment.
- If going to the gym distracts you, consider doing your workouts at home or go during slower times when you won’t be tempted to chat away half of your workout.
- Make your session 45 to 60 minutes and increase the intensity. Vigorous exercise for 20 to 60 minutes, three times per week meets recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). But if weight loss is your goal, more significant loss is seen with more minutes of exercise per week.
- Combine your strength and cardio through High Intensity Circuit Training.
- While vigorous exercise is ideal for this schedule, check with your doctor for clearance before jumping into intense exercise.
You exercise five or more days per week.
When you have more days to commit to your workouts, you have more flexibility in the time and intensity of your exercise. Use this time to experiment with new activities and to gradually increase your fitness level. If you are new to exercise, it may be safer to squeeze in extra days of shorter, moderate-intensity workouts versus exercising fewer days at a higher intensity.
- To improve health, the ACSM recommends five 30 to 60 minute, moderate-intensity exercise sessions each week.
- Combining strength and cardio in circuit training can blast calories, but with five or more days to exercise, you can also take a more traditional approach to strength training. Work in a full body strength session three days a week, or train upper and lower body on alternating days.
- More days spent exercising can help you reach your goals faster, but it can also lead to a higher risk of burnout. Try different cardio activities such as cycling, walking and dance classes. Vary your strength training with muscle conditioning classes, plyometrics, free weights, or machines.
- Change your exercise environment by taking your workout outside. Longer, lower intensity sessions allow you to work in hikes in the woods, water sports, and games in the park with your family. Get creative with your activity to reduce boredom.
You only have a few minutes to exercise most days.
Research continues to support that 10-minute exercise sessions spread throughout the day can improve health. This is a great way to get in exercise if your schedule is swamped or during especially busy times of the year.
- Try to scrape together three 10-minute breaks so that your exercise time totals 30 minutes at least five days per week. This allows you to reach the goal of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity for health.
- Choose activities that elevate your heart rate such as walking with slow and fast intervals, climbing the stairs, or alternating between strength moves and cardio exercises.
- The sessions don’t have to all be 10 minutes, they just need to be at least 10 minutes. You can squeeze in 20 minutes and then 10, or 15 and 15.