How much exercise do you really need to do a week? We asked the experts if one session is enough to support your fitness levels.
Movement is such an essential part of maintaining the basic functions of our bodies, it boosts everything from heart health to joint strength. So one workout a week – basically four workouts a month – might sound drastically low when it comes to keeping your body fit and healthy.
While there’s no ideal number of workouts anyone should be hitting, governing health bodies the world over have popularised the notion that three to four workouts a week is the optimum range for maintaining fitness levels. The NHS specifies that people aged between 19 and 64 should all be aiming to for “150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week.”
However, a new study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine suggests that what was once thought to be adequate exercise isn’t cutting it anymore. They found that 2.5 hours of weekly exercise didn’t prevent high blood pressure among older populations, but those who engaged in more than 5 hours of exercise per week did evidence a significantly lower risk for hypertension.
So how often should we really be working out? We asked the experts.
HOW DOES WORKING OUT ONCE A WEEK AFFECT YOUR FITNESS?
Many of us are used to the idea of packed workout schedules being the optimum way to keep fit. We set early alarms for daily runs, join gyms pledging to make a stop every other day, and buy passes to expensive fitness classes in the hopes that they’ll make us up the frequency of our workouts.
Abbie Watkins, personal trainer at OriGym, explains, “You’ll actually be fitter in the long term if you commit to working out just once a week – every week – than you will if you try an unsustainable exercise regime. For most of us, exercising everyday just isn’t realistic. If this sounds like you, working out once a week is better than trying to exercise everyday and ultimately giving up because you can’t maintain this routine.”
However, this changes if you are used to working out frequently. Watkins says “for somebody who is used to training frequently, only working out once a week will cause your fitness levels to quickly decline and you will more than likely lose muscle definition.”
That being said, if you’re only able to work out once a week you can still reap great fitness benefits. “Working out as little as once a week is enough to improve your cardiovascular fitness and to improve your physical strength”, says Abbie.
MOST EFFECTIVE WORKOUTS TO DO ONCE A WEEK
Whether your lifestyle doesn’t allow for multiple workout sessions, or you simply don’t want to increase your workout count, picking specific workouts can make your weekly session an effective full body conditioning.
While you might have to wait until gyms reopen to hit the pool, personal trainer and Bio-Synergy ambassador, Kirsty Allen swears by it. The PT says, “Swimming requires coordination to move all four limbs; it helps your cardiovascular health and improves your general fitness. It also offers resistance from the water to keep muscles strong and allows you to work your joints through their range of motion to maintain mobility.”
Vanessa Gebhardt, training expert and mind coach at Freeletics suggests HIIT workouts, because “not only is this style of working out a great time saver, it’s brilliant for building endurance and increasing your fitness levels.”
Allen advises, “A decent HIIT workout should take no longer than 20-30 minutes with rest periods.”
Whatever your choice of workout, physiotherapist Katie Knapton suggests avoiding doing the same exercise every week. She says, “The most important thing is to mix it up. Try an aerobics class or jogging, but really anything that gives you sustained increase in heart rate.”
CAN WORKING OUT ONCE A WEEK IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?
Working out doesn’t just keep your body in good condition, it also also has a great effect on our mental health and cognitive abilities.
According to Gebhardt, “Exercise can help boost thinking and memory indirectly by improving mood and reducing stress, depression, and anxiety.”
This mind-muscle connection doesn’t take much to elicit. Nadia Abreu, a Maximuscle ambassador and CrossFit athlete, explains further, saying, “Exercising can help you think more clearly, as the endorphins that are released when you exercise lift your overall mood. They help keep your mind sharp to complete the tasks you need to do through the day.”
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