Exercising regularly can be very beneficial for your overall health and wellness.
From lowering stress to helping prevent obesity and heart disease, it’s hard to argue against the benefits of exercise.
But as beneficial as exercise is, it can still be tough to decide how often we should be working out.
So … how many days a week should you be working out?
Well, I wish the answer was as simple as just stating a specific number of days, but the reality is ... there are too many variables that come into play when it comes to this question.
However, I have some good recommendations based on what goal you’re looking to achieve, because when it comes to how many days you should be working out, your specific goal plays most heavily into the answer.
So, let’s get right into it…
How Many Days A Week Should You Work Out?
Ultimately, how many days a week you choose to work out is going to depend on your goals and current fitness level.
A good rule of thumb is to work out 3-5 days per week while still getting in some movement every single day.
Now, if you currently don’t work out at all, even exercising one day a week can be beneficial. If anything, it can help you build the habits to maintain a healthier lifestyle. However, I can’t, by any means, say that working out once a week is going to help you reach a specific goal.
Now, when I’m talking about workouts, it can’t just be anything. It should be resistance training, cross-training, running, biking, or anything that could be considered a legitimate workout.
Depending on your goal though, specific forms of exercise will be more beneficial.
First, take a minute to consider what you’re trying to accomplish. Are you trying to build muscle? Are you trying to burn fat? Or, are you trying to accomplish a combination of both?
From there, I have some recommendations for how many days you should be working out to see the best results possible…
How Many Days Should You Work Out For Muscle Building?
If you are primarily focused on building muscle, you’ll want to aim for 3-5 days a week of resistance training (1).
This will allow your body enough time outside of the 3-5 training days to recover properly. Plus, if you’re trying to build muscle, recovery is extremely important. After all, you aren’t actually building muscle during your workouts. You’re actually building muscle outside of your workouts, to repair and grow the muscle tissue that you broke down during your workouts.
Just don’t forget to add in daily movement on your non-workout days as well! Even though you are focused on recovering for the rest of the week ... prioritizing light movements such as walking can still be beneficial.
These daily movements can even help with the strength and flexibility of your leg muscles (2).
Since walking has a low impact on your body, you’re still able to recover while remaining active. This is called active recovery! It's any low-intensity exercise that lets your body recover while still staying mobile.
Just make sure you aren’t burning too many calories between resistance training and active recovery. If your goal is to build muscle, you still need to eat more calories than you burn throughout the day (3).
But, what if your main goal is to burn calories and lose weight or get rid of unwanted body fat?
How Many Days Should You Work Out For Burning Fat?
If your focus is on burning that stubborn body fat, you’ll still want to aim for 3-5 days a week of resistance training. Why? Believe it or not, muscle tissue is also beneficial for burning body fat!
As we just discussed, resistance training helps a lot in the process of building muscle. The reason you want to focus on resistance training is because muscle burns a lot of calories on its own.
So, the more muscle tissue you have, the more calories your body is able to burn on a daily basis! But, you may also want to incorporate some cardio into your routine too.
It’s another great tool you can include on your workout days to earn the results you’re after. Some great options for cardio include running, jump rope, biking, swimming, or even playing sports.
On top of the cardio, it can also be beneficial to get extra movement on your rest days. If losing body fat is your goal, this is just another way to maintain a calorie deficit to lose weight.
How Many Days Should You Work Out For Muscle Building and Burning Fat?
So, now that we’ve covered both muscle building and fat loss, what if your goal is to do both?
The truth is, it’s going to be very similar. I would still recommend sticking with 3-5 days of resistance training a week. On top of that, you’ll still want to prioritize active recovery.
Finding the right balance here can be more tricky because you actually want to hover around your maintenance calories. This is the amount of calories you need to maintain your current weight.
Plus, the more conditioned and used to training that your body is … the harder it may be to accomplish both of these goals at once. With that being said though, you just have to find what works best for you and how your body responds.
How Many Days Should You Work Out For Maintaining and Staying Healthy?
You may be noticing a common theme by now. 3-5 days of resistance training with daily movement can be beneficial, no matter what your goal is.
For staying healthy, adding in a good mix of cardio exercise may also be beneficial. This is because cardio can have a positive effect on blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and many other aspects of your health (4).
Aside from how many days you work out, a balanced nutrition plan will also be important for staying healthy.
Can I Work Out Every Day?
You certainly can work out every day, however, it may be counterproductive toward the goal you’re trying to achieve. I’m not, by any means, saying you can’t see great results when working out every day … that wouldn’t be true.
But, you may not see the best possible results by training this way. The process of resistance training involves breaking down your muscles. Muscle growth actually occurs while your body is resting!
This is a big reason why it’s recommended to take 2-3 days of rest from resistance training. So, if your goal is to build muscle, this could definitely slow down your progress.
At the same time, the amount will depend a lot on how hard you train, how conditioned you are, and many other factors.
Need More Help?
Let’s face it, knowing how much and when to work out can be tough to navigate. I know when I first started planning my workouts, I had no real idea where to start or what to do.
If you need help, this is when tools like the 1st Phorm App can make a huge difference.
The 1st Phorm App has been designed to take the guesswork out of the entire process. With tons of different programs to choose from for all different types of training styles, there is definitely a workout program for you!
You'll also get access to a certified advisor! Your advisor will be happy to help with nutrition, training, and everything in between.
You’ll be able to track your food, progress, and training, and message your certified advisor directly inside the app!
We also have a team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches who can point you in the right direction for FREE. Just give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stphorm.com anytime!
(1) Ralston, G. W., Kilgore, L., Wyatt, F., Buchan, D. S., & Baker, D. (2018). Weekly training frequency Effects on Strength Gain: A Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine - Open, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-018-0149-9
(2) Morris, J., & Hardman, A. E. (1997). Walking to health. Sports Medicine, 23(5), 306–332. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-199723050-00004
(3) Slater, G. W., Dieter, B., Marsh, D., Helms, E. R., Shaw, G., & Iraki, J. (2019). Is an Energy Surplus Required to Maximize Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy Associated With Resistance Training. Frontiers in Nutrition, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2019.00131
(4) Mersy DJ. Health benefits of aerobic exercise. Postgrad Med. 1991 Jul;90(1):103-7, 110-2. doi: 10.1080/00325481.1991.11700983. PMID: 2062750.ABOUT THE AUTHOR