How Many Days a Week Should I Work Out to Lose Weight?

Jeff Baldelli
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The truth behind weight loss

Is this:

When you burn more energy than you take in, you’ll lose weight.

That’s it.

This is true whether you’re sitting on the couch watching TV or running a marathon. Any time you burn more calories than you’re consuming, your body will get to work and start losing weight regardless of the exercise being performed.

When most people think about how they’ll lose weight, they put the majority of their focus into working out and moving more. And this is definitely important. But many times, the same people will make a mistake by focusing on cardio and neglecting weightlifting.

Weightlifting is every bit as crucial to losing weight as cardio. Lifting weights isn’t just to build muscle or look good in the mirror. It’s also a fantastic way to help you burn fat and lose weight.

In fact, if you just focus on lifting weights and avoid cardio, you can lose weight. Conversely, if you just do cardio, like running or swimming, you can lose weight.

But the best way to lose weight is to do both weightlifting and cardio on a regular basis. There are tons of reasons as to why this is true, but one of the most obvious is that weightlifting will help you burn an insane amount of calories as your body expends the additional energy needed to heal and repair sore muscles. It’s like interval training without the work. All you need to do is lift weights, and your body will burn the additional calories needed to lose weight.

Additionally, people who focus on weightlifting can expect amazing results from their cardio workout as well. This is because weightlifting helps you build muscle, and muscles help you increase your resting metabolic rate. This means that even while you’re at rest, your body is still working and burning energy.

This is another way that lifting weights increases your overall calorie expenditure, which again helps you lose weight and burn the fat you want to get rid of. All of this contributes to the overall positive effect of weightlifting on your weight loss goals and fitness routine.

With that said, let’s talk about how many days you should do each of these cardio and weightlifting workouts.

Here is what exercise CAN do, and why you SHOULD Exercise

  • Keep your mind sharp, and possibly prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • Reduce your risk of some cancers, including lung, colon, and prostate.
  • Prevent muscle loss and bone loss due to aging.
  • Reduce stress and improve your mood.
  • Help with your insomnia.
  • Keep your bowels moving.
  • Age gracefully by slowing down the graying of your skin and keeping your hair.

Low-to-Moderate Exercise Can Improve Life Span

The six-year study found that moderate exercisers (the equivalent of a brisk 45-minute walk five times a week) were 34 per cent less likely to die of any cause than sedentary peers, while the most active group (covering twice that distance) fared even better, cutting the risk by 50 per cent.

They were even less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

Those who half-assed it in their exercise routine, however, saw no real benefit.

The researchers pointed to prior studies which showed this kind of middle-of-the road fitness reduces the risk of dying within a decade by 25 per cent, according to the New York Times.

"What we're really trying to do with these findings is to get people to exercise more," said lead author I-Min Lee, enrolled in a news conference announcing the study. "It's a wakeup call. A lot of people think exercise is something you don't need unless you're really sick."

The study also found that among the exercisers, the more energetic were more likely to stave off death.

Not only that, but they cut their risk of other ailments, too.

In fact, researchers found that no matter how much the participants exercised, they were still likely to die if their diet sucked.

"We saw that moderate or more vigorous physical activity was associated with a lower risk of dying from any cause, cardiovascular disease and heart disease, but it wasn't the main factor," she said.

What's this mean for you?

For starters, if you're not exercising much, you may want to bump it up a notch.

Even a little bit of activity, you'll find, can make a world of difference.

Second, if you're not eating right, you'll want to work on that too.

A quick research

On Google reveals that many fitness experts recommend somewhere from 5 to 7 days of training per week. While this goal may be ideal for professional athletes, it’s rather difficult to achieve if you’re not a professional athlete.

Even professional bodybuilders usually train about 4 days a week, with this number going up as they prepare for a competition.

This is because the harder you train, the more recuperation time your body needs. The more intense your fitness sessions, the slower your metabolism will run.

While working out 5 to 7 days a week can provide some great benefits, it can also cause more harm than good.

Some experts even suggest that working out more than twice a week will actually reduce muscle mass instead of increasing it.

If you want to focus on cardio, 3 days a week is all you really need, with each session being at least 30 minutes. That being said, you can still benefit by working out on your off days as well.

And while there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to get the results you want in 3 days of exercise, even less may be required depending on the goal you’re working toward.

For example, if you want to increase your testosterone levels or improve your physique, then working out just twice a week may get the job done. Similarly, if you want to simply stay fit and healthy, that may also take less working out time to accomplish that goal.

If you’re a beginner, work on having 1 day of heavy lifting and 1 day of interval training. As you get into your exercise routine, you’ll be able to target specific goals (like increasing muscle mass or improving cardio) over time and increase the number of days you work out.

What Are the Worst Exercises?

We’re not going to go through a complete list of exercises here. That’s already been done with the most common exercises for abs, arms, legs, and various other body parts.

Instead, we have a full exercise guide over here that will give you the complete rundown of what muscles you’ll be working out and the importance of each exercise.

That being said, there are a number of exercises that you should absolutely avoid. Consider yourself warned.

Don’t overtrain

The best fitness rule that you can follow is to rest when you are supposed to. This is called “deloading” or “active rest.”

Why Active Rest Is Necessary

Active rest is important because you need to let your body recover after a tough workout. Sleep and a sound nutrition routine are both vital for your body to recover and rebuild itself.

The less you stress your body with tough workouts, the longer it is likely to last and the better it is going to perform.

This is why “jo-isting” is one of the worst things you can do, because it causes a lot of stress on your body each day. When you go from working weights to burpees to a quick sprint and back to bench-pressing, you are asking a lot of your body.

It’s always better to spread out some of that stress throughout the week so that you can get the most benefits without making your body too tired or worn down.

This is where active rest comes into play. When you have a tough interval session or long cardio workout one day, you can counteract the excessive stress with a strength training session and light aerobic exercise the next day.

This will allow your body to recover, while still getting the benefits of both training types.

For example, if you performed a particularly tough interval session on Wednesday, you might do a less intense session on Thursday and focus on the weights.

I personally have worked up to the level where I can have three or four days of interval training in one week, while still getting in a day or two of active rest.

How Many Days a Week Is Ideal for You?

As with anything else, there is no single answer for how many days a week you should workout. Your goals, what your body can handle, and your lifestyle are all key factors in determining this number.

Most people should aim to work out 3-6 days a week. This will help burn off all of the energy that you likely have stored up in your body and will help you to create a more consistent routine outside of the gym.

So what should you do to lose weight

The simple answer is that you need to exercise regularly.

This is true whether you’re doing an intense HIIT class, walking for an hour using a treadmill, or doing a combination of both.

The only difference is that when you combine the two, you’re effectively getting the best of both worlds. As we explored in the last section, doing interval training will strengthen more than just your muscles. It will also train your heart and lungs to become more efficient and improve blood flow.

In an ideal world, you’d exercise for five days a week. This allows enough rest for your body to recover, and it keeps you on track to reach your goals.

As far as what sort of frequency is best, you need to evaluate your personal schedule. The more daily tasks you have to juggle, then the more beneficial it will be for you to keep exercise as regular as possible. By all means, you won’t become a better athlete by exercising more, but it’ll give you a better chance of sticking with it in the long run.

If you have intense exercises on the agenda, then you should bring this number down to three times a week. Single person households might be able to get away with three intense sessions and one day of light cardio. Married couples might want to opt for two intense sessions and two more moderate sessions.

The benefits of working out on your down days are twofold. First, your muscles will have more time to recover. Second, your diet will have more time to be optimized to lose weight.

As far as what time of day is best to work out, the rule of thumb is that you should work out early in the day.

If you do so, you’re more likely to make healthy food choices later in the day, as your brain is less distracted by other things. This can lead to eating better and exercising longer on your off days, because your motivation will be stronger and your willpower higher.

Here are some charts that can help you figure out what days and how often you should work out. Again, we’re assuming that you’re working out three to five times per week. You should also adjust the current options based on any injuries you may or may not have.