How Often Should I Exercise?

Q. How Often Should I Exercise?

A. According to Dr. Pietro Tonino, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Loyola University Hospital, “celebrities look the way they do because they’ve followed their intense regimes for a long time. They also can afford ace trainers who make sure they don’t hurt themselves, vary their routines and keep them motivated”.

Another difference: “Most people that I know don’t have that amount of time to work out every day,” Tonino says.

Overexercising can be dangerous, warns the doctor. You might see some short-term benefit, but at the risk of long-term damage.

Among the hazards:

  • degenerative damage to tendons,
  • ruptured biceps or pectorals
  • and muscle strain.
And all it takes is an hour a day...
And all it takes is an hour a day…

“Thirty minutes a day to an hour a day would be a good workout,” Tonino says.

Which kinda makes sense.

  • Americans are told to perform moderate-intensity aerobic (endurance) physical activity for a minimum of 30 min on five days each week or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 20 min on three days each week.
I'm too sexy for this shirt...
I’m too sexy for this shirt…

ooops, that’s only 60 minutes a week. And that only keeps you from dying, it doesn’t give you a six-pack.

  • In Canada, Big Brother recommends that all good little Canadians accumulate 60 minutes of physical activity every day to stay healthy or improve your health. Time needed depends on effort – as you progress to moderate activities, you can cut down to 30 minutes, 4 days a week.

Alright, 2 hours of moderate activity each week….making us twice as fit as the Yanks?

What about the Brits?

  • For general health benefit, adults should achieve a total of at least 30 minutes a day of at least moderate-intensity physical activity on five or more days of the week.  The recommended levels of activity can be achieved either by doing all the daily activity in one session, or through several shorter bouts of activity of 10 minutes or more. The activity can be lifestyle activity or structured exercise or sport, or a combination of these.

We have a Winner!!!

150 or more minutes of moderate intensity activity each and every week.

Okay, that’s it then, 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week is your exercise prescription.

Wait a minute, what’s this?

In a new study, published July 28 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers tracked 191 overweight and obese women to determine the exercise prescription required to maintain a weight loss of 10% or more of initial body weight over two years.

The Study

  • The women were instructed to eat between 1200 and 1500 calories a day.
  • They were assigned to one of four groups. The groups were based on exercise intensity (moderate v.s. vigorous) as well as the number of calories burned through exercise – 1000 to 2000 kcal per week.
  • The participants were encouraged to divide their exercise over five days a week and to exercise for at least ten minutes per session.
  • They also had regular contact with members of the Health and Physical Activity Dept at the U of Pittsburgh.

The Results

  • After six months, all of the women had lost weight.
  • About half of the group lost 10% or more of their starting weight.
  • However, after 2 years, only 47 (25%) of the overachievers were able to maintain their weight loss.

So how did the Fantastic Forty-Seven do it?

Researchers found that the women were averaging 275 minutes (1835 calories) of exercise per week. That’s 55 minutes a day on a 5 day schedule, or 40 minutes a day if you exercise every day.

As well, the women who exercised the most were also eating the least. On average, they ate 444 less calories than the women who exercised the least. It should also be noted that after crunching the numbers, the super group was eating 3108 less calories per week than the slacker group. And then when you add in the fact that they were also burning 1100 more calories per week, it’s no surprise that they did better than their chubby sisters.


Theirs: The addition of 275 mins/wk of physical activity,in combination with a reduction in energy intake, is importantin allowing overweight women to sustain a weight loss of morethan 10%. Interventions to facilitate this level of physicalactivity are needed.

Mine: Keeping in mind that I am a personal trainer and that I spend a good part of my day screaming for “one more rep”; I think that this research paints a realistic picture of the type and amount of activity needed to keep our society from getting fatter and fatter.

And before you say it, you do have 40-55 minutes of free time each day.

According to data collected from the annual Health Surveys for England between 1997 and 2006, rich old white people are more likely to participate in sporting activities than other demographic groups.

This also happens to be the demographic that carries the least amount of excess fat. Even worse, the fitness participation gap between rich and poor, black and white, old and young appears to be growing wider. So it seems that while more and more lily-white baby boomers are trying to get fit, the rest of the general population is getting fatter and lazier.

And before you say it, the rich actually have less free time than the rest of the great unwashed.

“Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman has found, however, that being wealthy is often a powerful predictor that people spend less time doing pleasurable things, and more time doing compulsory things and feeling stressed”.

“People who make less than $20,000 a year, for example, told Kahneman and his colleagues that they spend more than a third of their time in passive leisure — watching television, for example. Those making more than $100,000 spent less than one-fifth of their time in this way — putting their legs up and relaxing”.

“Rich people spent much more time commuting and engaging in activities that were required as opposed to optional. The richest people spent nearly twice as much time as the poorest people in leisure activities that were active, structured and often stressful — shopping, child care and exercise”.

So, no more excuses, get your rear in gear.

Here’s your inspiration…

Get off the couch!!!
Get off the couch!!!

Like this article???

If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year.

button subscribe


  1. hey my dad is the docter at the begining of this article! i’m proud

  2. When I first moved to Toronto in 1996, I weighed 225 lbs.,and had no muscle (I’m 6′). After learning about nutrition, I stopped eating hamburgers and junk-food, and got myself a gym membership. Consequently, I dropped some 35 lbs. in just over a month, and have kept it off. I was also a hairstylist at the time, and burned much energy running crazy to please clients.

    Today, I’m still 6′, have kept the weight off, and increased my muscle mass considerably. It really is about what you eat and what you do.

  3. This is great. I work out way too much I guess. I work out 3-4 times a week at 90min sessions. That comes out to be about 300 hr/wk! OMG, I’m an overachiever, but don’t really have great results. I must be doing something wrong.

    I also think eating habit has a lot to do with exercise. Most of my friends I work out with go for big eats right after exercise because they feel hungry. What’s the point of workout then?! Eating small portion and healthy choices are must when trying to tune-up!

    This would have been a great post in April. Summer is almost over, people are gearing up for fleeces & jackets.

  4. Your dealt in-depth with Americans, Canadians and other Caucassians. Please what is your experience in Sub-Sahara Africans.Remember, a large proportion of us is not well fed.

  5. In all my health classes at school they told us that its best to work out everyday of the week. Have I been lied too?

  6. I think for some people, simply teaching them the joy and funess of exercise, is a must and the biggest hurdle.

  7. So you’re saying people should be getting about an hour of exercise a day. But it seems like your workouts focus on the opposite–some of your 2013 workouts are only 30 minutes long, and part of your push for tabata is that those workouts are so much shorter than plain cardio. So which is it?

  8. Both – The science says 40-55 min of “exercise” per day. The exercise they are talking about is moderate intensity exercise. The higher intensity exercise we do in my workouts can’t be judged the same as the moderate intensity workouts.

    Different forms of exercise has different benefits – a nice slow walk with a friend has benefits Tabata workouts don’t have. 20 min of mobility work has benefits that 30 min of pool laps doesn’t have.

    I used to work with a trainer who had his clients do the exact same workouts with the same exercises every week because he believed it was THE best workout and THE best exercises. Unfortunately, best is a relative term…and his clients were bored out of their minds…not to mention they never worked on repairing specific physical problems during their workouts.

    So…what the heck am I actually saying here???

    I believe that higher intensity / shorter duration workouts are superior to lower intensity / longer duration workouts. COmbined with mobility/flexibility workouts, it is the best way to transform your body into something special. However, I still enjoy going for a long run every now and then. And I will skip a workout to play team sports in the summer. And go for a swim in the indoor salt-water pool at my gym.

Comments are closed.