I’ve often been asked “how long should my workouts take to do?” – and truth be told, it’s a question I’ve wondered myself.
I've been doing a lot of research on this recently and here's the answer: – it depends on your current fitness level, your fitness goals, and the type of training you’re doing. Let’s explore this in more depth.
For general health
The American Heart Association recommends that most adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise, spread over most, if not all, days of the week, in combination with moving more and sitting less in general.
If we break this down into, say, 6 days a week, that’s 25 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a day, or 12.5 minutes of high intensity exercise a day.
(For reference, moderate intensity exercise is exercise at a level where you can have a short conversation with the person beside you, but feel challenged. High intensity exercise is an intensity where you can speak a sentence or two but feel borderline uncomfortable.)
Now, disclaimer: these are bare minimum recommendations – in other words, for good health, we need to be aiming for a longer duration than this per week.
30 minutes a day, 6 days a week, would give you 180 minutes of moderate exercise a week, reducing your risk of chronic preventable disease and improving your health.
If you’re a beginner
If you’re a beginner, you might find that your exercise tolerance is quite low.
That is TOTALLY okay. We all have to start somewhere.
Make sure to talk to your doctor about the right type and intensity of exercise for you, and instead of focusing on how much you should do, instead just do as much as you can and improving gradually.
I remember when I started getting fit for the first time in my life. I’d never exercised before since I was a kid.
I bought a Tae Bo DVD and only made it through the first 12 minutes of the video before I was lying on the floor, sobbing for breath.
It felt discouraging at first – but the next day, I showed up again. This time, I was able to get through 15 minutes.
I’ll never forget the first time I’d made it through the whole 45 minute video. I was so pumped and proud of myself.
It will be the same for you. Start where you are and build.
30 minutes of moderate activity should be doable and effective for most beginners – but of course, we’re all different.
Do what’s right for you and your body, and don't overexert yourself!
If you aim to improve your past workout duration by just 3% each time, you’ll gradually be able to build up your level of fitness to 30 minutes of activity or more each day.
Sometimes, the best way to eat a whole elephant is one bite at a time. Be kind to your body. Challenge it – but don’t overdo it. This way, you’ll be able to come back again tomorrow.
For the kind of training you’re doing
Not all workouts are created equal! Different workout types and intensities have different recommended workout durations.
For example, HIIT cardio, where you train at maximum intensity, is only able to be sustained for a very short session of between 10 and 20 minutes.
A steady state aerobics class, on the other hand, is a moderate intensity workout, and usually goes for 60-70 minutes.
If you’re lifting weights, it can take up to 30 to 60 minutes to complete a workout, depending on your fitness levels, how you’re training (and how crowded the gym is, if we’re being honest).
A yoga class can take up to 90 minutes, so that you can warm up your muscles before getting into the deep stretches.
If you want to lose weight
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends working out for 250 minutes a week for sustained weight loss i.e. losing weight and keeping it off for good.
It’s also important to consider the kinds of training you’re doing. When losing weight, you won’t be working out at the same intensity every day.
A good weight loss program combines high intensity workouts with moderate intensity workouts and recovery workouts, or active rest days, so an example of 250 minutes a week may look like:
MON: Moderate intensity workout – 50 minutes
TUES: High intensity workout – 25 minutes
WED: Moderate intensity workout – 50 minutes
THURS: High intensity workout – 25 minutes
FRI: Moderate intensity workout – 50 minutes
SAT: Active rest day – 30 minutes
SUN: Active rest day – 30 minutes
The answer to the question “how long should my workouts be” is as open ended as “how long is a piece of string?” It really depends on your current fitness level, your fitness goals, and the type of training you’re doing.
Now, onto the Captain’s Log for yesterday.
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This morning, Greg and I were on the go. We got up early to go work on our side hustle and there was no time for brekky. I just had a coffee to go.
Greg stopped in at the bakery but I just really didn’t feel like breaking my fast with a pastry, so I decided to hold out.
After we’d done half a day’s work we called in at a cafe and I ordered the most insane eggs and avocado on toast. It even had sundried tomatoes and fetta on it. Heaven!
I also had a mocha (didn't eat the marshmallows though because gross. Does anyone else not like marshmallows? Apparently I'm the only one I've ever met).
Here’s the thing though: after complaining I was hungry all morning I took three bites and I was full. WTF is with that?
I just wasn’t hungry again until dinner – honest.
One of the hardest parts of learning to trust my body has been overriding Diet Culture.
I spent a lot of the afternoon panicking because I wasn’t hungry and if I didn’t eat then I would throw out my metabolism and blood sugar and all the things.
And then I said to myself “Rhiannon, stop it. If your body isn’t hungry, it’s not hungry. It doesn’t need any more energy. It will let you know when it’s time to refuel.”
And it did – at about 7:30, which is an early dinner time for us. I had four slices of leftover pizza, which I didn't photograph because my phone was dead. However, here's a pic from last week's.
I used to be able to eat a whole Domino's pizza by myself and still be hungry, but now I can scarcely manage four slices and I'm so done. Supreme is just my favourite!
I totally believe that fitness and weight loss and health doesn't mean we have to sacrifice the foods that bring us joy - and pizza is certainly one of them. I've gotten into making my own healthy pizzas, which are amazing and delicious, but sometimes nothing scratches that itch quite like Domino's - so I eat it, enjoy it, and move forward.
After dinner, we watched Guardians of the Galaxy, so I stocked up on some healthy low calorie movie snacks with a packet of sweet and salty popcorn (portion controlled at 90 calories) and a Fibre One bar (think I may be getting addicted to those now) before toddling off to bed.
I did this Jane Fonda classic today – the beginner version, might I add - holy Toledo, it BURNED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay, so it wasn’t much in the “aerobic” department, and I didn’t use ANY weights at all but it worked muscles I didn’t even know I had. I’m still sore today.
If you’re looking for a workout that’s light on in the aerobics department but still a hardcore workout, this one’s for you. And it has all the nostalgic 80s workout vibes!
Well, my Glam Babies, that’s all I have time for today, so I need to wrap up. It’s time for bubble baths, Disney movies, and settling in for Sunday night with my family.
Until tomorrow, keep shining bright.
- Xo, Rhi