Physical Health

How Often You Should Be Working Out—and How Hard You Really Need to Go


In today’s fitness-crazed world, there are hundreds of competing theories about the best workout practices. There are those who say that if you’re working out hard, then you only need to be in the gym about three days per week; however, others will say six days per week is what you should be aiming for if you’re truly committed. When it comes to the types of exercise you should be doing, at first, it was all about steady-state cardio, but then high intensity interval training (HIIT) came into vogue. How often one should strength-train also seems to remain unclear.

This all leads us to the question: what’s a fitness-minded girl to do? Below, we break it down for you in terms of how often you should work out, as well as how hard you should be going, according to your specific goals.



If your goal is to benefit health-wise & to be in decent shape fitness-wise…

It’s no secret that exercise has a host of health benefits to offer, including reduced risks of type 2 diabetes, cancer, depression, high blood pressure and premature death. If your goal is to reap most of these health benefits, you should be able to fit all of your workouts into three or four days.

It’s worth noting that not all of these workouts have to leave you panting and on the verge of passing out. With that said, do incorporate at least two 30-minute cardio sessions per week. HIIT options can take the form of a boot camp or indoor cycling class or a run with structured sprinting intervals. Other non-HIIT cardio options may include walking, light jogging, or swimming.

Strength training is especially important for women, as it can make bones denser and thus decrease the risk of osteoporosis. Although this disease may seem like a far-off worry for someone in their twenties or thirties, now is the time to build a solid foundation of strength that you can continue to build on as you age. Aim to perform total-body exercises such as deadlifts, squats, pushups, and lunges (to name a few) for 30-40 minutes about three days per week.



If your goal is to benefit health-wise AND to be at the top of your game fitness-wise…

Hard-core fitness buffs should hit the gym four to five days per week. Although some may tout their six-times per week fitness habit, proceed with caution, as the recovery phase is when muscles get stronger. If you’re planning on strength training on consecutive days, be sure that you’re targeting different muscle groups to give the exhausted body parts a chance to rest.

Thrice-weekly strength sessions of approximately 45 to 60 minutes each should give you the chance to hit all muscle groups. True fitness lovers may want to add in some extra flexibility or balance challenges, such as foam rolling and single-leg exercises. Two cardio sessions of your choice on top of your three strength sessions add up to a full week of fitness.

Experienced cardio pros may enjoy HIIT sessions that are done Tabata-style, which consist of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. When exercises like jump squats, burpees, and mountain climbers are combined into Tabata-style rounds, they make for one killer workout! If you really prefer steady-state cardio such as long runs, it’s totally fine to swap out one HIIT cardio workout per week for a steady-state session. After all, doing what you love makes it much more likely that you’ll stick to a routine, and ultimately make some headway towards your goals.