How often you exercise will really depend upon your fitness goals. When you are penciling workouts on the calendar, remember to include the also important rest days. Here’s what else to consider.

Working out for better health outcomes
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes’ vigorous exercise weekly. This amount of exercise has been shown to improve overall health and reduce the likelihood of chronic illness. Benefits include lower cholesterol, better cardiovascular health, reduced risk of diabetes and improved feelings of well-being. Anything that gets your heart rate up counts, so dance the night away, take a hike, ride a bike or swim under the stars.

Working out for weight loss
Three to five days weekly is ideal. Beginners should aim for three days with at least one rest day between workouts and two consecutive rests days each week. This schedule will help you build strength and stamina quickly as well as lose weight, without undue risk of injury or burnout. You can gradually increase the number of days to five as you are able.

Combine cardio and strength training for weight loss. Suggested schedules:
Beginner: Cardio 2 days, strength training 1 day, rest 4 days
Intermediate: Cardio 2 days’ strength training 2 days, rest 3 days
Pro: Cardio 2 days, strength training 3 days, rest 2 days

sport-2264824_640Working for strength training
You can make great progress with just 3 days each week. Strength train for 45 to 60 minutes, and don’t forget to stretch afterwards for best results. Avoid working the same muscle groups two days in a row. Muscles need time for recovery to build and grow.

Move more all day
Assuming you work out at the high end of the scale, or around 5 hours weekly, there are still 163 hours in the week when you are not exercising. Here’s how to make the most of that time.
• Focus on building muscle. A higher muscle to fat ratio means a more efficient metabolism. Strength train to burn more fat even when you are at rest. Although muscle weighs more it is lean, so even if the scale doesn’t drop you’ll look smaller.
• Get up. Experts have declared sitting the new smoking when it comes to health risks. Even regular exercises are not exempt from the dangers. Get up at least once an hour. Take the stairs when you can or count your steps to maintain high physical activity levels even when you aren’t at the gym.
• Fidget. Sounds silly but more movements, even small ones, burn more calories.

Make the commitment to exercise for better overall physical and mental health. If you aren’t doing anything now, start simply by wearing a pedometer and increasing your steps or exercising one day weekly. Fitness isn’t only for elite athletes; it is for everyone.