How Long Should a Workout Be?

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Looking at your workout plan to decide how to get your best results always starts with workout length and duration. Start with having realistic goals. Are you looking for top athletic performance or all-around fitness? After your self-assessment review some of the key factors to decide on workout length.

 Workout Length | How long should a workout be for BEST results?

There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about how long you need to spend working out to get results. What is the optimal workout length and how long is too long?

When it comes to strength (weight) training there is a good amount of research that shows working out for more than 45-60 minutes may actually be detrimental and counterproductive. There are a few different factors that may contribute to this. You want to make your fitness easier to have long term success.

cortisol levels impact How long your workout should be

Exercise causes you to release both anabolic and catabolic hormones. The anabolic hormones, testosterone, human growth hormone and insulin are basically responsible for building new tissue and repairing damaged tissue. The catabolic hormone, cortisol, is mainly responsible for increasing blood glucose levels, immune function and aiding in metabolism. But excessive or prolonged cortisol release can have significant adverse effects.

Too much cortisol can result in blood glucose spikes, increases in blood pressure, inflammatory responses and lowering of the immune system. It can also lead to disruption of muscle tissue repair and creation along with an increase in fat storage. Cortisol is released in response to stress. Working out is stressful, therefore the longer you workout, the more cortisol you release.

Many studies have shown that cortisol increases dramatically after approximately 60 minutes of vigorous exercise. There are also a number of studies that show the optimal time for weight training to be around the 45-60 minute mark, and for cardiovascular training to be around the 30-minute mark.

vary workout length to manage muscle fatigue

Long duration workouts, particularly prolonged strength training workouts, can be very stressful to a number of the body’s systems, not just the endocrine system. Both the nervous and muscular systems are heavily taxed during a typical workout. The extent of this stress and strain depends on a few factors including the type of activity, the intensity and the duration. Both systems need adequate time to recover in order for progress to be made.

Exhaustive, long, drawn-out workouts are okay now and then, but not every time. Piling on the stress to the nervous and muscular systems very quickly leads to major muscle fatigue and burnout. If you take a look at professional athletes; they walk a very fine line between peak condition and injury as they are frequently asking their bodies to perform at a very high and intense level. That is why rest and nutrition are major part of their plan to maximize performance. That is why off-season is essential to allow for full recovery. 

How long should I workout at the gym?

Another good reason to keep your workout length under the hour mark is it gives you little time to waste. The longer you spend at the gym, the more time you have to hangout instead of workout.

The gym can be a very social place, but remember you are there first and foremost to workout. This also goes for working out at home. Your workout length is for exercising, not for doing chores or your taxes in between sets.

A typical full-body workout of 3 sets x 10 reps of 8-10 exercises with 45-60 seconds rest between sets, if performed correctly, should take approximately 45-60 minutes. This leaves very little time to waste.

A great way to prevent working out too long is to split your workout in two. It is also perfectly okay to perform more than one short workout in one day. You can do a 20-minute workout in the morning and another in the evening. This allows you to get all the work done in a reasonable time frame while also keeping the intensity high.

To crank up the intensity for these shorter workout bouts try performing them while wearing a weighted vest like this one. The added resistance will definitely dial things up a few notches giving you the results you want in the optimal time.

So when it comes to working out, the old saying of “quality over quantity” definitely holds true. Try throwing in some longer duration workouts into your program over time, just not every time.

How long should I workout each day?

Rest and recovery is essential. So first create a plan to workout each day that recognizes recovery is part of your everyday workout. This can be foam rolling, stretching, massage, yoga and light exercise. Make sure you plan to vary your daily workouts alternating strength training and cardio. When strength training every day is what you do to reach your fitness goals, mix up muscle groups and be sure to use weights that are not too heavy. You should be able to do 10-15 reps for 3-4 sets with a weight before increasing to a heavier weight.

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