How long do I need to work out?

As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should perform both aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity. Generally, adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. In addition to the aerobic work, adults should participate in muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days per week. Of course, these requirements can vary depending on your current physical condition and previous experience. In the beginning, try to engage in moderate intensity exercise for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Be aware of how your body responds to exercise. You should actively reflect on your perceived rate of exertion during exercise. Listening to your body will help you to distinguish between light, moderate, and vigorous intensity when exercising. Light or weak activity takes very little effort, and you should be able to carry a conversation with no problem at all. Engaging in moderate intensity activity is somewhat hard, and this means that you are raising your heart rate enough to break a sweat, yet you are still able to carry a conversation. Vigorous intensity activity means that you are breathing harder and faster, and you will not be able to carry a conversation without having to pause for a breath. From there, you will be able to determine whether you should stay with the same time, increase the time, or increase the intensity you are working out at. As exercise becomes easier, slowly progress from moderate level activities to more vigorous ones.

Well how much time you need to workout is all based on your goals.  However, you should get at least three 30 minute sessions per week.  Your personal goals could change that.  You could need to workout out more depending on what your goals are and how fast you want to get there. I always tell my clients to get in at least 3-5 days of cardiovascular training on top at least 3 days of resistance training.  Bottom line you must look at what you want to achieve and how much muscle you want to gain and what you want to lose in body fat.  So where your deficit needs to be at will determine how long you need to work. 

How long you workout will be influenced by what your goals are, how much exercise experience you have, and what your present state of health is. Always consult your physician before starting any fitness regime. If you are just beginning a fitness regime and are in generally good health, please remember to start smart and make your workouts appropriate for your present capabilities.  Once you begin to see results you can make incremental changes to your workouts that will keep challenging you and ensure you see results.  The Center for Disease Control and the President Council on Fitness ( suggests 30 minutes of moderate to intense cardio activity per day for adults and 60 minutes a day for children.  

Depending on your goals you will have to adjust the time you spend exercising. For example, if you are looking to lose weight you may have to increase you cardio activity to as much as 60 minutes per day but if you are just seeking general fitness 30 minutes per day will do.  For my clients who also perform resistance training I usually recommend 3 days of resistance training (30-60 minutes depending on goals and capabilities) and 3-5 days of cardio activity (20-60 minutes also depending on goals and capabilities). Bodybuilding and sports specific clients require different modalities so if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Most people starting off should do at least 30 minutes of strength training 3 times a week, workouts will vary due to health, age and medication that you may be on. Depending on your health and cardio level you should try to do cardio 3 times week for 25-45 minutes. Before you start your cardio, you should find your target heart rate and training zones.

To determine heart rate training zones, simply use the following formula:

(220 - age) x % of HRmax = Training intensity
Training Zone
HR Formula Purpose

Zone 1 - 65-75%  (220 - age) x 0.65 or 0.75 Helps build an aerobic base and is used for warm-up and recovery.

Zone 2 - 80-85% (220 - age) x 0.80 or 0.85 Increases anaerobic and aerobic capacity, can build leg strength and fuel calorie burning.

Zone 3 - 86-90% (220 - age) x 0.86 or 0.90 Increases speed, power, metabolism and anaerobic capacity.

Remember 5-10 minutes of the cardio should be your warm up and allow 3 minutes for your cool down.

The best way to find out the length of time and what intensity you should be working-out at, is to get a check up by your physician, then get with a Fitness Professional/Personal Trainer and together design a workout program based on your goals and fitness assessment.

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
According to the most current public health guidelines on physical activity (the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans), adults should accumulate 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week, or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running). This boils down to about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Depending on your goal, you will have to adjust your workout times accordingly. For example, if your goal is weight loss, you might want to invest more time each day to increase your activity (up to 60 minutes a day) and burn extra calories. After all, weight loss is about burning more calories than you consume. You will need to adjust your workout time according to your goals, however for overall health benefits, I would recommend staying within the guidelines listed above. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.