How Much Do You Actually Need to Exercise to Stay in Shape?


When it comes to exercise, there are so many different regimens for getting and staying in shape. But how much time do you really need to spend working out every week just to stay relatively fit? New research dives into what a weekly routine could look like, and spoiler: It doesn’t take much!

A new scientific review published in the Journal of Strength Conditioning & Research looked into the minimal amount of weekly exercise required for people to maintain their fitness levels over time, especially given that all sorts of different occurrences pop up in our lives that can make it more difficult to find the time to work out consistently. This research dove into three aspects of exercise regimens: Frequency, volume, and intensity. In other words, scientists looked at how often people work out, how long they exercise during any given session, and how much effort they put in.

Here’s some good news if you don’t have a ton of time to get your blood pumping every week or just can’t find the motivation today: They found that you can maintain your aerobic fitness level by doing cardio or endurance training two times per week for 30 minutes per session. You can even see results after just 13 to 26 minutes to endurance training, too! This includes activities like running, swimming, biking, or dancing. On top of that, you need two additional 30-minute strength training sessions per week doing two to three sets per exercise move. This can include classic bodyweight exercises like squats and push-ups as well as resistance work with dumbbells or barbells.

The most important element, scientists found, is that you keep up the level of intensity no matter what you’re doing, even if it’s for a short period of time. They say it’s “the key variable for maintaining physical performance over time, despite relatively large reductions in exercise frequency and volume.”

While researchers do encourage people to move more than just these four basic weekly sessions in order to improve fitness, it’s great to know that you won’t completely lose all of your progress if you aren’t necessarily working out every single day or trying a wacky new exercise routine. Sometimes just a few movements a week can make a huge difference!

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