How much exercise should we be doing? Fitness trainers answer the most Googled questions

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Are you working out too much or too little? Stylist Strong trainers answer the most Googled health and fitness questions.

For some people, hitting the gym a couple of times a week is ticking a big goal. Other people feel off-track unless they’ve started every morning working up a sweat. The question is, is there a correct amount of time we should spend working out?

According to the NHS, we need 75 minutes of “vigorous intensity activity” or 150 minutes of “moderate intensity activity” per week. That activity includes playing sports, riding a bike and weight training. However, there’s no strict guideline as to how we should break up exercise, as “you can do your weekly target of physical activity on a single day or over two or more days”. 

So are those of us who work out five days a week overdoing it? Or are those of us who visit the fitness studio once a week not doing enough? Should we be spending more than an hour at a time exercising? We decided to ask the experts directly.

Each week, three trainers from Stylist Strong – Stylist’s fitness brand that runs strength-training classes focused on incorporating weights – answer some of the most asked questions from women who want to get into lifting. This time, we asked them how much exercise we should really be doing each day. Their answers show that there’s never a one-size-fits-all.

woman workout fitness exercise water towel gloves sweat exercise
How much exercise should we be doing?: the NHS suggests 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.

HOW MUCH EXERCISE SHOULD YOU DO IN A DAY?

TESS GLYNNE JONES, TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

One session a day is more than enough. If you’re doing more, or even one every day, you’re probably going to crash. What happens when you train is that you become weaker – you’re fatiguing muscles to the point that if I asked you at the end of the session to repeat the weighted reps we did in the beginning, you wouldn’t be able to. But after you let yourself recover, you become stronger than you were before. If you’re training more than once a day, you’re never really going to achieve that ‘super compensation’ because you’re always going to be in a fatigued state.

EMMA OBAYUVANA, TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

For somebody that doesn’t exercise often or is just starting their fitness journey, once a day is enough. If you have a specific goal in mind, you could work out twice a day. But only if you’re somebody that genuinely enjoys spending their time working out and you’re no stranger to exercise – so it’s not putting any unfamiliar stress on your body. If you’re going to work out twice a day, choose workouts that are complementary. Don’t do exactly the same workout twice a day because you’re over-exhausting the same muscles and it’s not beneficial. For example, you could do running in the morning and resistance training (with free weights) in the evening. Or you could do strength-training in the morning with yoga in the evening. But I think generally once a day is absolutely enough.

woman running on treadmill earphones gloves gym exercise
How much exercise should we be doing?: if you're going to exercise twice in a day, choose different workouts that are complementary.

HOW LONG SHOULD A WORKOUT BE?

EMMA OBAYUVANA, TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG 

A good strength session can be 45 minutes. Structure it in terms of a good warm up, including mobility work, then two blocks of three exercises done back-to-back. Always make sure you take time to cool down and stretch.

TESS GLYNNE JONES, TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

It depends on what you’re going for. You can get an efficient session within 45 minutes from start to finish. This is best done with supersets, one exercise straight into another followed by resting.

If you’re going for a real strength-based session, where you’re lifting around 80% or more of your max weight, then your session may take longer as you need time in between to rest. I recommend keeping these as single exercises rather than ‘super-setting’ as you’ll be pretty fatigued from working at a high percentage. These sessions take 45-120 minutes, but 60 minutes is sufficient. You may start flat-lining if you go for two hours – it’s not necessary unless you’re a serious athlete and have a programme that requires you to train to that intensity.

SHOULD YOU DO CARDIO IN THE SAME SESSION AS WEIGHT TRAINING?

TESS GLYNNE JONES, TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

With my clients, the majority of the session will be strength. At the end, we’ll do around 15 minutes of weighted circuits so they’re getting resistance and cardio in one. By doing this, you’re pushing your muscles to the point of fatigue, more than you would in two separate sessions. Which, in a sense, is going to make you stronger as you’ll be working until failure and that’s when your muscles grow back stronger.

If you decide to do your cardio in the morning and your weights in the evening it’s a lot. Especially if you have a 9-5 job. If people want to increase their cardio, I’d say take the stairs, walk more or cycle. That’s a good way of getting your heart rate up and getting in more cardio when you’re too busy to get to the gym.

EMMA OBAYUVANA, TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

I think you should have a break in between in order for your body to have that optimal recovery and to have a beneficial second training session. When you’re fully recovered and able to perform better you’ll get more out of your second workout.

If you don’t have that luxury then I’d suggest shortening the length or intensity of one workout so you’re not over-fatigued. You could do a light jog for 20 minutes, followed by a weight session.

READY TO START WEIGHT TRAINING? 

Stylist Strong is a fitness brand specialising in strength training specifically tailored for women. Our classes are designed to build both physical and mental strength in a smart and informed way.

So, whether you’re a beginner or already have strength-training experience, Stylist Strong has a class to suit you. Come and try our strength-based classes, including our new yoga classes, at our own purpose-built studio at The AllBright Mayfair.

Want to be a part of our brand-new fitness community? Sign up for the Stylist Strong email

Image: Getty

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