Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

How frequently should you workout?

How frequently should you workout? The good news is that you don't have to workout frequently to get in great shape or to stay fit. In fact, you definitely should NOT workout more than twice per week, or for more than 30 minutes per workout, or else you may well do more harm than good. Even once per week is often ideal depending on the individual. However, you do need to move your body every day in addition to your occasional workouts to be successful in your health and fitness.

At Total Results, we have specific definitions of working-out versus simply moving your body. We define exercise as putting a meaningful load on your skeletal muscles to the point of momentary muscular fatigue or failure. This is the absolutely necessary stimulus required to improve the skeletal muscles, bones, cardiovascular system, and various metabolic pathways, including blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity. Exercise must be done using a safe and efficient methodology in order to minimize the chance of injury, minimize time required, and maximize the body's recovery opportunity. Exercise must also be progressive, meaning the goal must be coninuous incremental improvements in resistance levels, time, and form. Exercise is our specialty at Total Results and we fulfill all of these requirements. Workouts are brief but intense, and they are performed using a safe slow-motion protocol with 100% supervision at all times. Perhaps most importantly, workouts at Total Results are infrequent. The maximum frequency allowed for clients is twice per week, with at least three days between workouts.

Sure, we could increase our revenue if we encouraged our clients to come three times per week or more, like most of the area gyms and personal trainers do. However, if you perform an actual meaningful workout, your body cannot handle more than two intense sessions of exercise per week (Admittedly, most people in gyms are not performing meaningful workouts most of the time; rather, they do a few exercises with big breaks in-between, they demonstrate their strength to others, they show off their fancy workout gear, they socialize, etc. etc.). However, if you are actually exercising, by our definition of exercise, more than twice a week, your body will not reach full recovery before your next workout, much less make gains in strength, muscle size, cardiovscular efficiency and more. Additionally, excessive volume or frequency of exercise will depress your immune system, making you more susceptible to the flu or other illnesses. You will also be more prone to injury because your body will be in a perpetual state of suboptimal strength and readiness.

Now that I have defined exercise and explained the need for brief, intense, infrequent workouts, let's discuss the need for daily body movement. What do I mean by movement? I mean any physical activity that is not exercise by our definition. Some examples are walking, hiking, snowboarding, cycling, bowling, gardening, house cleaning, sports participation, treadmill, yoga, Pilates, dancing, martial arts, and many, many more. None of these activities have the all the needed factors to be considered exercise: safety, progressive in nature, achieving muscle fatigue, brief, in accordance with muscle and joint function, fully supervised, etc. Note that many of these activities can be quite rigorous. You can have significant exercise effect by taking part in these activities. You might sweat, or become out of breath. Your muscles might fatigue. However, none of that is necessary or even desirable as long as you are exercising properly once or twice per week. However, your body does need to move. It does not need to be intense or exhausting, but it can be once in a while for the sake of recreational enjoyment or competition (ex. mountain biking, snowboarding, basketball games). Movement mainly needs to be a frequent event, multiple times per day. Why is daily movement necessary? Although movement doesn't neccesarily increase our strength or fitness levels, moving has many necessary benefits: it helps us digest food, reduce our stress levels, reduces our blood pressure, burns more calories than non-movement, improves socialization, increases endorphins which can improve mood and reduce pain, and many more.

I recommend at least walking every day, preferably several miles. Low level activity is fine, as long as you are exercising properly once or twice per week. It is probably more beneficial both physically and psychologically to mix up your movement from day to day or even hour to hour. For example, you might walk in the morning and garden in the evening. Play tennis at lunch time and take a quick bike ride after work.

When you combine daily, frequent, low-level movement or recreation with infrequent, brief, excercise sessions, you are getting an ideal mix of stimuli your body needs to thrive. Remember, too much exercise is as bad as too little. Get out there and move every day, but don't forget your proper, infrequent exercise once in awhile!

Posted February 14, 2019 by Tim Rankin