The best way to approach the question, “How often should I go to the gym,” is to assess your lifestyle, determine your fitness goals, and set a schedule for yourself. Need a little help? Continue reading for recommendations on how often you should go to the gym based on the results you want to achieve and how much time you have to dedicate towards working out.
WEIGHT LOSS GOALS
If you’re looking to lose weight, head to the gym two to three times per week or do 10-15 minutes of continuous activity two to three times per day. Muscle is what burns fat when we rest, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn when you’re not working out. A mix of cardio and strength training will help you improve your fitness while also helping you lose unwanted pounds.
The key to weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume. The closer you get to your weight loss goals, the more you might find yourself exercising. Whether it’s through strength training or cardio, movement of any kind will help you burn calories. To really maximize weight loss, a healthy diet of lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables will help speed up the process.
STRENGTH TRAINING GOALS
If your goal is to build muscle, you’ll need to be more cautious about how often you hit the gym. The more days you spend in the gym, the less time your muscles have to recover and grow—slowing the speed of strength or size gains. If you want to hit the gym hard with full body workouts, go three days per week. If you prefer focusing your workouts on upper body one day and lower body the next, try going four times per week. These cadences will give you enough time to recover from the stress of your workout while reducing the risk of burnout or injury. Remember, muscles grow in response to training stimulus but need time to recover and rebuild.
If you don’t have a lot of time to spend at the gym, you can do various types of resistance training at home if you have dumbbells, barbells, or even heavy bags filled with books. As long as your workout frequency is consistent enough for your muscle mass to build, you should see changes and improvements.
If your goal is heart health, working out five days a week is ideal. Try doing 30 minutes of moderate to intense cardiovascular activity every other day. This will keep your heart strong while avoiding overtraining or provoking injury. Walking, cardio machines, and additional low-impact training are great ways to improve cardiovascular health without overstressing the body. Doing 30 minutes of cardio will get your heart rate up, give you energy throughout the day, and ensure your body has ample time to recover.
Your schedule will undoubtedly affect how often you’re able to hit the gym. If you don’t have a lot of time but still want to train hard, try high-intensity interval training (HIIT). In just 45 minutes or less, you can get in a solid workout. HIIT workouts will help you stay fit and strong, even when you’re short on time. (Pro tip: Try one of our STUDIO RED classes at your local VASA to experience a fun and motivating HITT class.) Try scheduling two or three HIIT sessions per week. If you really need to maximize your time, cut out your commute to the gym and work out at home or go for a run or bike ride around your neighborhood.
If you don’t hit the gym as often as you’d like because you’re too tired, you might be overtraining and should spend some time evaluating your rest, sleep, and eating habits. Rest days are equally as important as gym days. If you’re not giving your body the time it needs to recover from exercise or not getting enough quality sleep, then you’re going to see a plateau in your fitness improvements and experience the burnout often associated with overtraining. Working out too much can take a toll on your body and energy levels and could lead to injury. The harder you train, the more you need to prioritize rest and sleep.
Tiredness and low energy can also be a sign of stress, improper nutrition, or a sedentary lifestyle. Exercising produces natural endorphins that help you feel happy and more energized. Taking care of the body holistically is the best way to make progress. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep and eating a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, with minimally processed foods, and drinking a lot of water is the best way to recover from tough workouts. Managing life stresses will also help with fatigue.
SHOULD I GO TO THE GYM EVERYDAY?
Going to the gym every day is not nearly as effective as you might think. Most workouts should last around 45 minutes. Give your body the time it needs to recover and build muscle tissue. If you go to the gym every day or work out for an hour or more, you will most likely be overtraining which could lead to injury, burnout, or frustration when you plateau.
SO, HOW OFTEN SHOULD I GO TO THE GYM?
Going to the gym three to four times per week is perfect for maintaining current fitness levels and staying in shape. Athletes or people wanting to take their fitness to the next level should go to the gym six times per week.
These are general guidelines, but everyone is unique and will require a different exercise program based on their available time and goals. Scheduling exercise into your week will help you incorporate it as a regular, healthy habit.
If you want a concrete fitness plan, schedule a free one-hour personal training consultation at your local VASA. One of our certified personal trainers will assess your current fitness levels and help you create a personalized plan so you can meet your goals.