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How often should you be working out?



Health Canada recommends that we exercise (moderate to strenuous activity) 150 minutes per week. So that is 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.

But governments have a tendency to undershoot and make really conservative estimates. Plus I am guessing that their recommendations is based on "maintaining weight" rather than "losing weight".

So begging the question, how often should I workout / exercise if I want to lose weight?"

- Rebecca G.


Hey Rebecca!

Yes, its true the Canadian government does recommend we exercise 150 minutes per week, and yes, you are correct, their goal for that is really for healthy maintenance. I should note at the same time that only 15% of Canadians actually get that 150 minutes per week of moderate to strenuous exercise, so its really no surprise that we have obesity problems in Canada.

If you want to be losing weight I recommend you start doing some math.

Lets say for example that you wanted to lose 1 lb per week via exercising. Your goal therefore would be to do 3500 calories worth of exercising per week. Approx. 700 calories per day.

Now that is a tough thing to do and your best solution is to do it via cardio / aerobic exercises such as running, cycling, swimming, etc. because those activities will burn the most calories. You could try doing it using weightlifting, but most people don't have the stamina to lift weights constantly for 60 minutes.

Exercise & Calories Burned per Hour
130 lbs
155 lbs
180 lbs
205 lbs
Aerobics, general
Aerobics, high impact
Aerobics, low impact

I should also say that it is impossible to get results working out only one day per week. I know, that's not the most motivating thing to say if you are the type of person who can only dedicate 1 day per week to exercise, but I'm not going to sugarcoat the truth. People who try to exercise one day per week, assuming they were previously in poor shape, simply won't have the energy to exercise for 5 to 7 hours in a single day.

So you really do need to break it up so you are exercising 5 to 7 times per week, either for 1 hour per day, or for 90 minutes five days per week. Either way your goal should to be exercising a minimum of 7 hours per week.

Keeping in mind that 7 hours isn't really a lot. You have 168 hours in a week. 7 hours is only 4.2% of your time.

And that is the minimum amount I am recommending if your goal is weight loss. The maximum I would recommend is 14 hours (unless you are in training as an athlete and your goal isn't weight loss, but muscle gain).

Now you might say, why set a maximum? The reason is because of loose skin. If you lose more than 2 lbs per week then your skin will start to become loose because you losing weight too quickly. Thus my recommended goal is between 7 and 14 hours of moderate to high impact cardio just so your skin doesn't start sagging after a month or so of super-fast-weight-loss.

Now if you are you one of those people who gets motivated on and off, and you only find yourself at the gym once a week being told you need to exercise for 1 to 2 hours per day will be a rather discouraging. My advice is don't try to think about it that way. After all do you have only eat healthy one or two days per week? Well if you can eat healthy every day then dedicating 4 to 8% of your time to exercising can be done too.

Now I admit that is not entirely fair because something is better than nothing. ANY effort is good for your health, but since your goal is weight loss then you need to be doing more than the bare minimum required for maintaining your current weight.

Remember these Weight Loss Goals

If you are beginner three workouts a week for 45 minutes to 1 hour is the MINIMUM you should be doing. Once you feel more motivated then you can aim for 5 to 7 hours per week. Given time you may even build the stamina and motivation to be exercising 14 hours per week.
Remember to mix up both cardiovascular and strength training workouts into this regimen and eat a very clean diet. Avoid anything that contains toxins.

If you have lost weight before or have been already working out regularly up the days per week to 5 or 6.
If you start exercising every day remember to alternate upper and lower body exercises that way your bottom/upper half gets a break every 2nd day.

Muscle Building Goals

If your goal is not weight loss but muscle gain you will have a very different way of doing it.

Whether you are a beginner or intermediate hitting the weights 3-5 times a week will be necessary for packing on serious muscle. Building muscle is hard! 1 or 2 times a week will not stimulate the muscle fibers enough to actually put on serious mass. Diet will be just as important so remember to eat lots lean protein and consider using whey protein supplements.

The photo on the right is of female arm wrestling champion Sarah Backman. You can bet she is exercising at least 14 hours per week in order to stay competitive.

Remember to give your muscles time to relax and repair. Over exertion can result in too much muscle fatigue and you won't be gaining any new muscle mass.

Health and Maintenance

To simply feel good and maintain your health, exercise 2 times a week for 45 to 60 minutes, or 3 times for 30 to 45 minutes. That will make the people at Health Canada happy. Get a little bit of everything into the workout: cardio, strength, balance, agility, flexibility, etc.

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