Putting together a sensible exercise routine is an essential first step for anyone wanting to achieve noticeable results from their personal fitness goal. The benefits of being consistent and disciplined with your eating habits, exercise regimen and nutritional supplementation are immeasurable. Whether you are training for a triathlon or simply wanting to lose a few pounds, regular exercise plays a huge role in getting you from point A to point Z.
However, one of the most confusing and misunderstood topics surrounding a sensible exercise plan is the frequency. In other words, how often should you exercise? With so many opinions and theories, chances are that you’ll get a different answer from each person you ask. If you look hard enough, you’ll hear all about the dangers of overtraining, the importance of intensity, recovery, short workouts, long workouts… it’s enough to make your head spin.
What really matters are results without injury, and coming up with the best plan to optimal health in the shortest amount of time. In this article, we’re going to look at all of these factors so that you can better understand what works and what doesn’t work, while at the same time dispelling any myths you may still believe to be true.
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The Theory of Overtraining
Most people equate overtraining to the mandatory need for rest and off days, under the premise that our bodies need the recovery time. While in theory this may be true, most fitness enthusiasts mistakenly believe that these “rest” days mean that they should do nothing, with the end result being less days of exercise per week.
Overtraining can lead to injury, fatigue and burnout… when this condition actually occurs. Having said that, it is also one of the most frequently abused theories in fitness. Intense physical movements are performed every day by lots of people with physically demanding jobs. If overtraining were the monster it’s been portrayed as, our hospitals would be filled with brick masons or delivery personnel that routinely lift thousands of pounds per day in their jobs.
The way to combat overtraining is to alternate muscle groups, change the intensity, and use common sense by paying attention to how your body feels. If you have run for two days in a row and your legs are feeling fatigued, try walking on day 3. If you have worked out your chest and triceps on day 1, try focusing on your back and biceps on day 2.
Putting Duration in Perspective
The length of each workout should be dependent upon the intensity of the exercise you are performing. Obviously, running 95% maximum effort wind sprints is incredibly intense and could be completed in around 12 minutes, while a brisk walk for 12 minutes would yield considerably less results. Another good example would be circuit training with weights, versus the more traditional resting between sets most commonly seen in the gym (we’ve found that a personal trainer can help improve results and increase your stick rate).
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In circuit training, the objective is to move quickly, with little rest between each exercise, by doing higher repetitions with lighter weights. This results in a 20 to 30 minute workout, but is quite intense when completed correctly. Another approach might call for a weightlifting program using heavier weights and less reps, with a 3 minute break between each set, resulting in a 90 minute workout.
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Frequency per Week
When it comes to putting your fitness goals on the fast track, quantity plays a big part in getting where you want to be – and quickly. Our bodies have this incredible way of constantly trying to revert to their genetically natural state of origin, which is why elite athletes do some form of exercise almost every day.
Thirty minutes every day will give better results than one hour, three times a week. It’s this type of high frequency that is generally preferred for faster results and greater overall fitness.
Exercise comes in all kinds of packages. All you have to do is make sure that your lifestyle is structured to include some sort of physical activity as often as you can.