This Is How Often You Should Exercise Each Week, According to the World Health Organization
"I'll exercise tomorrow" is a phrase that many, myself included, utter at the end of a long work day. Physical activity often takes a back seat to more relaxing activities, like watching TV, but it shouldn't. Exercise is necessary for both physical and mental health, which is why it's important to prioritize working out. But how many times a week should you work out? And how do you start an exercise program if you're new to fitness? Here's what experts say.
How Many Times a Week Should You Work Out?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released updated guidelines on how much physical activity one should aim for each week. We broke down their advice so you can figure out the frequency, intensity and length of your workouts, plus how many times a week you should work out, depending on your age and other health conditions.
For adults aged 18-64, both the WHO and the CDC stress the importance of exercise, especially to combat any sedentary movement (i.e. sitting all day for work). The WHO suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week (you could also do a combination of the two). These exercises could include brisk walking, running or cycling. (If you need help deciding what physical activity to do, check out the 5 best exercises for your health, according to a Harvard doctor.)
If you can, the WHO also recommends at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights. Although these recommendations may seem overwhelming and time-consuming at first, remember that any physical activity is better than none. The WHO advises to "start by doing small amounts of physical activity, and gradually increase the frequency, intensity and duration over time."
For Older Adults
For older adults aged 65 and up, the WHO suggests the same frequency and intensity of workouts as younger adults with one addition. On at least three days, the WHO advises adding in activity that focuses on balance and strength training, like yoga or dancing. For older adults, the WHO stresses the importance of exercise, which can help "prevent falls or falls-related injuries and declines in bone health and functional ability." These guidelines are also suggested for any adult, aged 18 and up with chronic conditions or living with a disability.
For Pregnant and Postpartum Women
For pregnant and postpartum women, the WHO advises at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity throughout the week. You should consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine and to make sure your plan to stay active is appropriate for your pregnancy. The WHO recommends avoiding exercise in excessive heat, staying hydrated before, during and after exercise and avoiding activities that involve a high risk of falling, might limit your oxygen or involve the supine position (i.e, flat on your back) after the first trimester.
For Children and Adolescents
For children and adolescents aged 5-17, the WHO recommends a minimum of 60 minutes of exercise per day. The WHO suggests that exercise should consist of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity, and that three of those days should also include exercises that strengthen muscles and bones. The CDC, which concurs with the WHO's recommendation, suggests age-appropriate exercises like running, jumping, bike riding and more (You can view the entire list of recommended activities here). These guidelines are also recommended for children living with a disability, but some activities may need to be modified. For kids, remember to keep it fun and playful. Play soccer, run around at the park or draw squares in chalk and hop around on them.
How to Create a Weekly Workout Plan That Works for You
You can decide how many times a week you should work out by looking at the type of exercise you're doing (and for how long you're doing it). For example, if you're a healthy adult, you could structure your week by doing an hour-long spin class plus two days of muscle-strengthening exercises to meet the WHO's minimum activity requirements. Or you could walk five days a week for 30 minutes and add in some strengthening bodyweight exercises for a more beginner-friendly approach.
However you choose to mix and match your workouts, adding even just an extra 30 minutes each week can make a big difference in your overall health. Whether you choose to hike with your dog, swim in the ocean, play golf, pull weeds in your garden or do a group fitness class, it all counts towards your weekly activity goals!
How to Start Working Out
If you're wondering how to start working out for the first time (or after being away from the gym for a while), the key is to start small, build your activity level gradually and have fun! Whether you take a walk around the block after dinner every evening or try out a yoga video on YouTube, you really can't go wrong (as the WHO says, any activity is better than none!). Just make sure to do exercises you enjoy, as you're more likely to stick to them!
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
The Bottom Line
Although starting—and maintaining—a regular fitness routine may seem daunting, it is possible and the health benefits are impressive. Whether you go for a walk around the neighborhood or have a dance party in your living room, the first step to any healthy exercise routine is to start.