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How long should I spend at the gym?

Nov. 5, 2021 / Haley McCoy
A woman starting to squat at a Vasa gym

After joining a gym, most people wonder how much time they should spend there. The answer will be based on your goals and how much time you have available in your schedule. Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, or find a community, setting a fitness goal will help guide your workouts and ultimately help you determine the amount of time you’ll need to spend at the gym.

Research has shown that even 10 minutes of consistent activity create positive fitness changes. For most gym goers, 30 minutes to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity done three to five days per week is the sweet spot and meets the American College for Sports Medicine’s recommendation.

Starting A Fitness Routine
Different fitness levels require different intensities and durations. Someone newer to fitness might reach 80% of their max heart rate on the treadmill at a fast walk, but a gym veteran might need to jog or run to reach that same level of heart rate exertion. The beautiful thing about gyms is that they offer a variety of equipment to meet the needs of all fitness levels.

The body is an amazing machine and can adapt to any activity it is challenged with. Beginners may find low intensity cardiovascular training and basic weight training more enjoyable as they build their exercise regimen. More advanced gym goers might find they need to pair high intensity interval training with a strength training regimen of lower reps with higher weight to see results.

Working out with a personal trainer is also a great way to start your fitness journey or help athletes push through a plateau. Personal training sessions typically last 55 minutes and include a warm-up, strength training, cardio training, and recovery techniques. These sessions are great because personal trainers can help beginners build up stamina and keep track of rest times to ensure you get as much work and as much rest as you need to reach your goals! They can also help seasoned athletes get stronger and become more well-rounded through cross-training.

A Vasa instructing her class
A man lifting weights above his head at a Vasa gym


Weight Loss v. Increasing Strength
Those who join a gym for weight loss should consider pairing strength training and interval training during gym sessions. This is usually a winning combination and can be accomplished in 45 to 60 minutes. Do this kind of workout three to five days per week (don’t forget to get in a good warm-up at the beginning), and you should see great results.

If your goal is to get stronger and build muscle by using heavier weights, those workouts should last 60-75 minutes and should be done two to four days per week, depending on how the muscle groups are split up. Strength training should be supplemented with 30-40 minutes of cardiovascular exercise in between weight-lifting sessions, anywhere from one to three days per week.

Can I spend too much time at the gym?
It’s easy to get excited when you first start a fitness routine. But pushing your body too hard too soon can cause extreme soreness—and might discourage you from going back to the gym! One of the best ways to avoid burnout is to start slower than you think and focus on gradually increasing the number of workouts per week, the length of your workouts, and the intensity of your workouts.

A great routine to follow when you get started is:
• 2-3 full body strength training sessions, 45-60 minutes each
• 1-3 cardio sessions, 30-45 minutes each with varying intensity
• 1-2 days of recovery (if you’re doing a low-intensity recovery workout, it should be approximately 30 minutes)

a group of people at a Vasa gym, enjoying the end of their yoga session

Rest, Recovery & Longevity
No matter your level of fitness, recovery should always be included as part of your routine and will give your body the time it needs to repair. Rest days allow muscles time to restore and repair so you can push harder in your next workout. Yoga, meditation, stretching, and foam rolling are also great ways to help the body refresh between hard workouts.

It’s important to stay focused on the long-term outcomes of exercise, activity, and healthy lifestyle choices. Ultimately, landing on a schedule that fits your goals, schedule, and experience level is what we all aim for. Find a gym and exercise style you love and you will be well on your way to meeting your goals.