Change Your Exercise Frequency to Change Your Body

How often should you work out each week?

By Michael Ormsbee, PhDFlorida State University
Edited by Kate Findley and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily

Is it necessary to exercise every day to obtain your ideal body composition? Thankfully not, but frequency still matters. Professor Ormsbee explains.

Woman warming up for exercise
In terms of how often should you exercise per week, consider mode, duration, intensity, and frequency when planning your workout schedule. Photo By Undrey / Shutterstock

Exercise Frequency and Weight Loss

How often should you be exercising? Along with mode (type of exercise), duration (length of exercise), and intensity (how difficult an exercise feels), frequency is another important aspect of exercise to help with weight and health. This refers to the number of times you exercise per week. 

For general health, you should exercise three to five days per week, according to the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines. What about for fat loss specifically, though? These same guidelines suggest aerobic exercise should be completed at least five days a week to maintain or increase weight loss.

Think about it: The more often you exercise, the more opportunities throughout the week you have to burn calories both during the actual exercise and after exercise, too. It is in your best interest, then, to slowly increase the number of planned workout sessions per week to take advantage of both of these opportunities.

Supercharge Your Workouts

For fat loss, it’s best to incorporate multiple types of exercise—aerobic, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and resistance training. When it comes to aerobic exercise, here are a few ways to get the most possible fat loss from your workouts. 

First, move lots of muscle. This is why running may be most effective for fat loss. Second, choose higher intensity exercise through interval training rather than low-intensity exercise, even when the same caloric cost is happening. 

Third, exercise longer rather than shorter when comparing exercise of the same intensity. Fourth, exercise at least five days per week to see the most improvement.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. It is best to only make one change at a time when it comes to exercise frequency. For example, try to change up your exercise in one small way today that is practical for you. 

Then, little by little, try to incorporate more of these options to maximize fat loss. It is not a good idea to change everything all at once—in fact, this is a sure way to failure.

Professor Ormsbee does not recommend beginning your program at six days a week or for 60 minutes at a time doing intervals. Instead, he suggests following another principle of exercise science, which is progression. 

“Be sure to progress your exercise plan and push yourself within reason,” Professor Ormsbee said. “Why? Because if you incorporate all of these suggestions immediately, chances are you will become overwhelmed and drop the fitness thing altogether.”

However, something is better than nothing, and more is better than less in most cases. As you feel comfortable, you can begin to tailor that something to fat loss. This way you can achieve more than you already do each and every day.

Resistance Training

Now that you’ve learned about aerobic exercise, you may be wondering if you can utilize resistance or weight training for fat loss. 

“In a number of research studies that I’ve been working on over the years, we’ve demonstrated that combining HIIT and resistance training is most effective for fat loss and improving body composition,” Professor Ormsbee said.

It turns out that resistance training is a very powerful tool for changing body composition. With only aerobic exercise, it is far easier to change your overall size but much harder to alter the way that you look physically. 

“I often say that you can change from a big pear shape to a small pear shape, but you need to add resistance exercise if you truly want to add lean muscle and change the way you look,” Professor Ormsbee said.

In tomorrow’s article, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits of resistance training, including specific research studies that have been done on the topic. 

This article was edited by Kate Findley, Writer for Wondrium Daily, and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Proofreader and Copy Editor for Wondrium Daily.
Dr. Ormsbee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences and Interim Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University.

Michael Ormsbee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences and Interim Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University. He received his MS in Exercise Physiology from South Dakota State University and his PhD in Bioenergetics from East Carolina University.