How Often Should I Exercise?

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, M.Sc.

Creator, Turbulence Training Transformation Contest

People often email me asking how many days per week should they workout. For the average person wanting to lose weight and focus on fat loss, the answer is simple. They will get fantastic results by training hard only three days per week. Now for the average person, that should be manageable.


And yes, all three of those workouts should be done in less than an hour. Research shows that 20-30 minutes of interval training is more effective than 40 minutes of slow cardio for weight loss. Combine the intervals with 20-30 minutes of strength training. Do that 3 days per week, and pow, you'll lose fat fast. (With good nutrition too, of course!)

On off days, I encourage people to be as active as possible, but without making extra effort to go to the gym. Walking to do your errands for an hour is great, if you have the time. Just do some form of health-promoting exercise (which can mean a half hour walk, yoga, or aerobic training if you desire). The duration and intensity of these off-day workouts depends on your fitness level, your recovery capacity, and your nutrition plan.

For many people, New Year's resolutions mean a return to high-volume cardio programs. But I urge restraint, caution, and conservatism. Trying to re-do your old running programs after some time off is a recipe for disaster.

If you plan on resuming a former running program, please start conservatively, especially if you are running on hard surfaces. Start easy. Build up in volume. Monitor your energy levels, strength levels, and mood. Be conservative, train consistent, and superior results will be yours.

And what about for beginners? How often should they workout?

Well, if you are the utmost of beginners, and haven't done any formal exercise in a long, long time, then simply do 3-6 bouts of 5 minutes of walking each day. Every day. Progress with your walking by increasing the time you walk and decreasing the number of "bouts" per day. For example, in week 3 of your exercise program, do 3 bouts of 10 minutes per day. And by week 6, you should be able to walk for 30 minutes straight. That is a place to get started.

At the same time, combine your walking program with a professionally designed bodyweight 3-day strength program that you can do at home (heck, most beginner exercises are even done lying on the floor!). After 6 weeks, you can increase the intensity of your workout, as outlined by your personal trainer. Eventually, you can progress into a more intense 3-day per week program.

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  • marty says
    great information
  • Mark says
    Ideally you should exercise daily for minimum of half hour. And the best way to lose fat is to eat less!
  • New Member says
    Good info, Im going 4 times a week and still struggling to loose the small layer of belly fat. Although my missus says its just skin
  • I read that every mammal has approximately 800 million heartbeats before they die. I'm going to sit very still and try not to raise mine. Pass a beer someone...
  • JohnGx says
    Any exercise is better than none! Ideally intense (but consult your doctor blah blah if you haven't been doing exercise for ages!). It could be just 15mins of hard exercise 3 times a week and then choosing to walk around your office instead of using the phone to contact colleagues. Use the stairs over the lift, drink water over coffee. There is heaps you can do :). Pedometers can be a fun way to help compete against yourself - they measure how many steps you take.
  • Michael says
    Ive been told that you should exercise for at least 30 mins a day every single day... i wonder how many people can actually commit to that??!?
  • KH says
    All the exercise obsessed people....maybe not the rest of us. I do actually get about 20 mins a day.
  • DeviousX says
    This is very similar to what I am currently doing.
  • dory says
    I do A LOT of walking...but in saying that, I take the lifts going up three floors (sad i know). I have been told that running is the best way to lose all over weight. I am not a fan of running, I would rather go on hour length walks then do that! Also I hate running machines, you run a shit load, but don't get anywhere?! (AKA...there is no amazing scenery blahblah). After reading that 3days a week with a good diet promotes weight loss, this has given me HOPE! I have a gym in the apartment..probably about time I start using it.
  • Mark says
    Guys - it's a lifestyle and lifelong commitment thing. Lay off shit food, make sure you walk whenever possible and FFS WALK up 3 flights of stairs. The killer is incremental weight gain - half a Kg per year means by the time you're 50 you've added 25Kgs to what you weigh at 25 years old. Is that what you want?

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