How often should I exercise?

How often should I exercise?

A common question I get is “how often should I exercise?”

The ‘textbook’ answer would be three times a week or every other day.  However, I believe that as you get older(past 30), you need to be doing some exercise every day.

Some people tell me that they get bored doing the same thing every day.  I think that’s good because so does your body.

While I strongly recommend that you plan to do some form of exercise every day, I don’t advocate doing the same thing every day.

There are a number of reasons for this.  Firstly, you run the risk of getting bored if you do the same thing every day.  We all like variety in our life and with exercise it is no different.  Not only might you get mentally bored doing the same thing every day, but your body gets physically bored and stops adapting and improving (i.e. getting fitter).

Secondly, to get the benefit from exercise you need to give the body time to adapt.  It typically takes 48 hours for the muscles to adapt to the demands placed on them.  If you do the same exercise every day, you may not get the full benefit of the work you are doing.

Thirdly, the muscles need time to recover from the work they have been doing.  It is not unusual for the muscles to feel somewhat fatigued and possibly a little bit sore the day after exercise, especially if it is a new exercise or something different.  You need to give the muscles enough time to fully recover from any exercise before you make them work again.  The fitter you are the less time the muscles need to recover but I still recommend giving them a day’s rest between sessions.  Even if you are reasonably fit, just doing something new can cause some delayed muscle soreness the next day (as I found out when I started doing repeats up Jacob’s Ladder after some years not running much).  Don’t let this put you off.

These three points all support not exercising every day, however I said earlier that I think you should exercise every day.  My recommendation is that you don’t do the same exercise every day for the reasons above.  What I do strongly advocate is that you do different exercise on alternate days.

I suggest doing two or three sessions a week of the same activity(e.g. walking, jogging, swimming) and a different activity on the other days of the week.  Ideally you’ll be using different muscles on alternate days and possibly different types of exercise.

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David Beard
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