How Long Should You Work Out? We Asked Experts

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Some movement is always better than none (just 60 seconds of exercise can make up for 14 minutes spent sitting, ICYWW). And while I love going to an hour-long workout class, once I walk or take the subway there and back, I’ve burned at least two hours (maybe more) by the time I make it home. Factor in showering, breakfast, and the workout itself, and well…you get the picture. Seeing that workouts can be hard to fit into jam-packed schedules, how exactly do you know how long you should be working out?

You definitely don’t have to clear two (or more) hours in your day to get a workout in, that’s for sure (TY, streaming workouts at home) and experts have a lot to say about finding your sweet spot when it comes to timing your workouts.

Since there’s a lot to consider when it comes to figuring out how long your workouts should be, I tapped certified trainer Brooke Taylor to help get to the bottom of figuring out how long you should work out.

How long should you work out?

Everyone is different, so you have to know that anyone’s specific needs and goals can change the below recommendations. “The average person should be getting in at least three-to-five workouts (30 to 60 min each) spread throughout the week for cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and endurance so that they continue to see results,” says Taylor.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) echoes this, recommending that most adults get 150 minutes of exercise per week at a moderate intensity. That breaks down to about 30 minutes per day for 5 days a week, or an hour long workout two days a week, plus 30 minutes on another day. You should also aim to incorporate at least two days of strength training (or any type of muscle-strengthening workouts) two days per week, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The CDC also says that breaking up your workouts to even smaller increments than 30 minutes at a time is totally fine; rather, it’s all about hitting that 150 minute weekly goal, no matter how you get there.

How different types of exercise factor in

Where the lines can get a little blurry is when you factor in the types of exercise you do. You know that a sweaty HIIT workout and a fast-paced Vinyasa flow yoga class aren’t exactly in the same category. And the CDC says if you’re incorporating more vigorous or intense exercise (like running, for example) then you only need 75 minutes of that per week, instead of the 150 minute recommendation for moderate intensity exercise.

This means that you definitely don’t need to get all of your exercise from doing super intense workouts like HIIT, for example. HIIT workouts are designed to be intense for shorter intervals, which gives you a lot of bang for your buck. “The anaerobic higher intensity workouts where your body is working at 70 to 90 percent of your heart rate will be shorter. Those that are cycling through lower or moderate intensity workouts will be longer,” says Taylor.

To figure out where your exercise falls on the intensity scale, you can think about your breathing (or heart rate, if you track it) and if you’re able to easily talk or carry a conversation while exercising. If you can talk, you’re most likely doing a workout in the moderate intensity category. According to the CDC, examples of this type of exercise include walking quickly, riding a bike, playing tennis, water aerobics, and even pushing a lawn mower.

Vigorous activity raises your heart rate more than moderate activity, and you’ll know this if you’re not easily able to talk while you exercise (because you’re breathing pretty hard and not able to focus much on a convo). Vigorous exercise includes running, riding a bike on hills or fast (which includes most indoor spin classes), a bootcamp style class, and pretty much anything else that feels really challenging.

At the end of the day, the length of your workout isn’t as crucial as long as you’re getting in the total amount of exercise recommended each week for your health. The good news is you have the freedom to split that up however you like, and keep in mind that more is not always better.

Doing workouts for too long at one time (like more than two hours) could lead to symptoms of overtraining. Taylor recommends capping workouts at two hours max a time since, “It could lead to adrenal fatigue, injury, and burnout. If one day is not perfect and you missed your one-mile warm up that isn’t a big deal,” she says. Instead, plan to schedule a workout tomorrow and aim to hit that total number of minutes day-by-day.

Ready to get moving? Try this workout: 

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