Ask Andrew: How Long should a Workout Last?

Any discussion of the “right” amount of time for a training session has to prefaced by saying that there really is no definitive answer. If you’re training for a marathon, or an obstacle/endurance race, or a CrossFit competition, or just to be strong and healthy, your needs are going to drive your training frequency and intensity and amount. So instead of telling you how long you should be working out, we asked Andrew for tips to help you figure out what’s right for you based on your individual needs and your fitness goals.

But first, a few baselines:

If your goal is weight loss: Some studies recommend between 50 and 90 minutes a day, while others say 30 to 45 minutes a day is sufficient. When it comes to weight loss, remember that proper nutrition will play the biggest role. Adequate rest is also important.

If you’re new to exercising: Start small and build your stamina over time. Begin with 30-minute workouts and add from there so you don’t overdo it or injury yourself.

Things to Consider

High intensity vs low intensity workouts: If you’re working out by a stopwatch and maintaining a steady pace, you’ll burn far fewer calories that you will with a shorter but more intense workout. Consider the sprinter vs the distance runner argument. Remember that the more intense your workout, the more beneficial it is in terms of calories and fat burned.

In terms of weight loss, many studies suggest that you can get the same benefits from short workouts as you can from longer sessions. It comes down to the quality of your workout. Two hours in the gym is a long time, but if you’ve spent all of that time watching the news from the treadmill, chatting on the phone and taking frequent water breaks, the intensity just isn’t there.

Consistency is key: This best exercise for you is the one that suits your lifestyle – the one you’re most likely to perform as part of your routine. If you only have a few hours tops in a week to workout, opt for something that will break a sweat and get your blood pumping. Consider mixing intensities and types of workouts. You’re less likely to get bored, and cross-training is an effective and functional kind of fitness. Remember that actually doing something physical is a lot more important than fussing about which work out is the best.

Factor for warm-ups and cool downs: If you take a hour-long fitness class, the main workout will be about 45 minutes. Keep this in mind when you plan your own workouts. And don’t skip your warm up or cool down!

How long is too long?

Long workouts can be stressful, though the definitive impact is cause for debate. Some people argue that the effects of cortisol can be blunted by making sure there is enough glucose (sugar) in the body, while others are adamant that you are doomed with the long aerobic workouts. It is generally accepted that long workouts can be quite stressful for the body, that they can affect the immune system and lead to overtraining.

Keep in mind that each person is different. Ultimately, your personal goals will dictate how much time you should spend working out. If you have more questions, I’m happy to answer them. Let’s discuss your fitness goals and how to achieve them with a free consultation.

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