How Long Should You Be Working Out?

We’ve heard about the 15- and 30-minute workouts. Between work, kids, and a little bit of a social life — they sound appealing. But how effective are they?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

That depends on whether you are just beginning to exercise, or whether you are more advanced. It also depends on your workout goals.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate aerobic activity or cardio each week, or one hour and 15 minutes of “vigorous-intensity” activity. That works out to at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days each week, or 15 minutes of intense activity five days each week. The department also recommends doing muscle-strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights, at least two days each week.

The 30-minute workout

Beginners should start with a 30-minute workout, and work their way up from there, Russell Pate tells WebMD. Pate helped develop a 2005 version of the Department of Health and Human Services physical activity guidelines.

Completing this workout each day can help exercisers maintain a healthy weight and lower the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and hypertension, according to WebMD.

According to guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine, this should be a moderate workout five times each week or an intense workout three times each week.

The 60-minute workout

Working out for 60 minutes most days each week can help you lose weight, according to Kettering Health, an Ohio hospital network. And this workout, or the longer 90-minute one that follows, will be necessary to keep the weight off, the organization notes.

To meet the guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services, this could be a moderate workout more than twice each week or intense activity more than once each week. However, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends this be a moderate workout five times each week, or an intense workout three times each week.

The 90-minute workout (or more)

A 90-minute workout is not for beginners, cautions Livestrong, a website dedicated to healthy living. Completing this workout once a week with high intensity, or twice a week at moderate intensity, will exceed the minimum health and human services guidelines.

This workout could also be for people who were significantly overweight, lost a lot of weight and are trying to keep it off, Pate tells WebMD.

The key to this workout is that is must be 90 minutes of quality activity, according to Livestrong. 90 minutes of leisurely strolling on a treadmill might not be as worthwhile as 30 minutes of high activity.

Finding time

There is no downside to fitting in a workout whenever you have time, says Ethan Levine-Weinberg, a trainer at New York Sports Club. More is always better than less, and some is always better than none. But, he cautions, it is also important after any workout to take a day or so to allow your body to recover.

Working out first thing in the morning — before work, before the kids are awake — can have added benefits, Levine-Weinberg says. Exercising in a fasting state can help build lean muscle mass, he said.

If you are planning to fit a workout into less than 30 minutes, it’s important to make those minutes count, writes fitness expert Neghar Fonooni for My Fitness Pal.

She recommends trying shorter workouts that include fast movements and high intensity. She also says to take fewer breaks and focus on exercises that combine two or more movements into one exercise. For example, squats that end in shoulder presses.

But the key is to figure out how much time you have to work out, and make it count, says Rick Kattouf, a fitness and nutrition expert. If you are looking to maintain your fitness level, he says, continue working out at your current intensity level and for the same duration. If you are looking to build muscle and burn fat, he says, try doing nonstop strength training exercises in your available time, and mix in a cardio day, instead of a rest day, on the seventh day.

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