How often should you exercise? For most people, the question is a no brainer – Every day!! But, there’s more to this seemingly obvious reply. Four elements that are crucial when creating and monitoring your exercise program are Frequency, Intensity, Type and Time (duration) of exercise. The acronym – FITT – is a principle that outlines the training guidelines that fit your goals and fitness levels, helps progression, and keeps plateaus at bay.
Let’s take a closer look at Frequency. This refers to the number of exercise (training) sessions per week. To reap the health and other benefits of exercise, the ideal frequency is 5-6 days a week. The 7th day is reserved for time-out and restoration. Planning the Frequency of your training will need to take into account certain factors:
First of all, present fitness levels: When recuperating from injury or surgery, physiotherapy exercises are done in short sessions, 2-3 times a day, for all days of the week. The goal is to decrease pain, improve mobility and strength and allow the body to readjust to movement; in short, help you to get back to what you want and love to do.
A healthy beginner might begin by working out 3 days per week. This is to help him adapt to exercise as a way of life, learn exercises in correct form, and to build stamina and strength. When he begins to see improvement in these areas, the frequency can be increased to 5 times per week or more.
Secondly, the Type of workout you are doing matters: The 3 most repeated activities to improve fitness and health are: cardio, strength training and stretching. Activities like slow jogging, easy pace swimming or easy pace cycling don’t need maximum all-out effort, hence they don’t exhaust the muscles. Therefore, low to moderate intensity cardio does not require a day of recovery. Frequency in cardio, therefore, can go up to 5-6 times a week. Even though this is possible, it is not recommended; cardio is generally restricted to three to four times a week to allow for strength training on the other days. Intense or vigorous cardio, like sprint intervals is hard on the muscular system. Recovery between training is needed. Hence it is repeated just 2-3 times a week.
For strength training, the recommended frequency is two to three non-consecutive days a week; Exercises at the beginner level are few, will include muscles of upper & lower body and have less training stress on the muscles, hence can be repeated 2-3 times a week; as you progress, use a split routine, like upper body on one day and lower body on the other; this way you also increase the number of exercises, while learning new skills and movements. At superior levels of effort, the split routine is highly refined to allow for fewer muscles to be worked just once a week. This allows time for maximum recovery. Advanced level in weight training will have you train chest, shoulders and triceps via just 8 exercises. But since you will train this only once a week, the effort and force exerted by the muscles is very high and will need 3-5 days to repair and recover.
Taking a look at flexibility, mild stretching, done at the end of workout, is relaxing and remedial; The muscles that have undergone elongation don’t need time to recover; hence can be done 5-6 days per week. Sports specific goals like running a Marathon or taking part in a cyclothon, will need extra number of training days for endurance. Concomitantly, strength training days in the week will be lesser.
To sum up, Frequency is a key component of the F.I.T.T. Principle. How many times a week you exercise will influence how fit you feel, how high your energy levels are, how strong you are, and how fluidly you move. Conversely, an inadequate number of training sessions in the week will result in no adaptations. There’s immense truth in the statement “Consistent action creates consistent results!”
Senior Faculty (Exercise Science)
K11 Academy of Fitness Sciences
Fitness Icon Kaizzad Capadia