How many days should I exercise? That has to be one of the most common things I'm asked when starting out with a client. There is no set answer to this question but there are considerations to make if you are just getting started with training and want to make a long term commitment to exercise. My answer will differ from person to person but lets go through some of the questions I will ask in response to get an idea on how to advise you.
How Many Days Can You Comfortably Commit To Exercise?
This may be the most important consideration of all when deciding on how many days to exercise. Too often people set unrealistic expectations of themselves to train 5 days a week when previously they have been doing nothing. This sounds like a recipe for failure as inevitably life gets in the way, fatigue sets in, and you get injured from overtraining and doing to do to much too soon! How about starting with a realistic goal that you can stick to over a long period of time? It is better to train 2 days a week for a year than to train 5 days a week for a Month. Your aim when deciding how many days a week you should exercise must be based on your lifestyle and availability. If you want to have long term success with exercise it will need to become a consistent part of your life, so starting off with a realistic amount of exercise for your availability and experience level will serve you well as exercise/training will naturally grow in importance and hence you will create more time for it down the road. But starting off too gung-ho will lead to it feeling like a chore and when life gets stressful it will be the first thing to go. Don't let this be you. For newbies to the gym/training I recommend 2-3 sessions a week and see fantastic results with this approach.
What Does Your Goal Require?
Another consideration when deciding how many days you should exercise is your goal. Different goals will require different frequencies of training and based on this I would make a recommendation. It is worth mentioning however that your goal will need to fit in with the first question above. If we sit down and you tell me you want to compete in an Ironman Triathlalon but only have two days a week to train then perhaps you need to rethink your goal, lifestyle, and availability to compliment eachother.
Apart from athletic/sporting goals which will require moderate to high availability if you want to balance sports skill practice and gym work, aesthetic goals such as losing body fat or building muscle can be achieved with varying levels of frequency. So for these types of goals you should refer to question number 1 and from there focus on making adjustments to your nutrition and habits to further accomodate your goal because what you do in the kitchen may be more powerful than what you do in the gym when looking to change the way you look.
Once you have decided on a goal and the amount of time you can commit to this goal it is time to get started. Keep tabs on your progress and embrace your commitment to exercising every week! Remember, it is consistency which will see you achieve your goals, not more sessions and only add more exercise if it fits in with your lifestyle. Quality over quantity will always win and if you can make your new gym habit a large part of your life I'm certain you will achieve your goals in time.
As a coach, nothing makes me happier than when my clients express a desire to exercise more often because they want to and are willing to make sacrifices in other areas of their life to make this happen. It is this true desire and enthusiasm for exercise which will enrich your life as well as give you the body you want. Making time for consistent exercise will have a positive effect on many areas of your life but start realistic and let the desire grow naturally, you might be surprised to find you love it.