Should I Go to the Gym Every Day?
It sounds like such a simple question…but, in truth, there’s no easy formula.
Calling all gym rats: If you live for the burn and endorphin high you get after a workout, it’s understandable why you’d want to chase that feeling every chance you can get. Daily workouts may seem like the answer, but not so fast. Determining if you should hit the gym every day isn’t a simple yes-or-no question. Before you put on your workout gear and lace up those sneakers, read this first. The answer to how often you should work out is determined by many factors, including how healthy and active you are now as well as the health and fitness goals you’re trying to reach.
What’s more, the question of daily exercise is really a question about recovery: How much time does your body truly need to rest between workouts? Let’s do a quick biology 101 refresher. When you exercise, tiny tears form in your muscles (hello, soreness) and it’s in the repair of those microscopic tears that muscles grow stronger. Research shows that our muscles need an estimated 24 to 48 hours to rebuild. Putting too much strain on the same muscles day after day can lead to more tissue breakdown than buildup, which could, in turn, cause injury. Post-exercise recovery, according to the American Council on Exercise, is crucial to any training program.
Don’t get stuck in a cycle of overtraining, which can actually make it harder to reach your weight loss or strength goals. So how often should you hit the gym? Ask yourself these five questions first. The answers will help guide you to your best weekly routine.
What’s my current fitness level?
If you’re just starting to work out after a long break, it’s not smart to go from couch to seven workouts a week. Hitting the gym every day is going to be a huge shock to your body and could increase your risk of injury. While your enthusiasm is admirable, ease into your new routine to give your muscles enough time to rest and recuperate between sessions. This means going slow (and, if necessary, checking in with your doctor) before starting a new workout regimen.
What are my fitness goals?
How often you work out—and, more importantly, what workouts you do—is going to depend on what you’re hoping to achieve through fitness. If you’re simply looking to be more active, then consider following the American Heart Association’srecommendation of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (that could be 30-minute sessions spread over five days or about 20 minutes over seven).
If you’re training for, say, your first half-marathon, at least one day a week of rest are paramount to any running program. You need to give your legs (and the rest of your body) time to recover as you steadily increase your mileage, so daily workouts aren’t a good option for you. But don’t forget to stretch - a long stretch session on the seventh day is an excellent idea. The same goes for those looking to lose weight or bulk up. Though your ratio of cardio to strength workouts may differ depending on the goal, you’ll still need to bake in time for recovery. (For weight loss, aim for three cardio session and two strength workouts. For bulking up, opt for three strength circuits and two runs.)
Am I doing the same workout every day?
If you’re a creature of habit who only really engages in one type of workout regularly (only running, only spinning, only kickboxing, etc.), then you definitely want to factor in a few rest days. Why? Muscle fatigue is a real thing. You don’t want to put stress on the same muscle group day after day. That said, if you’re the type to mix it up (arm day one day, leg day the next), you can get away with a few back-to-back strength sessions and increase the number of total workouts you put in per week. Just make sure you’re switching up your muscle groups in the process.
Does my body need a rest?
Listen. To. Your. Body. It always knows best. If you’re feeling fatigued, achy, or simply like you’re overextending yourself, then give it a rest for a day or two. No matter what routine you set for yourself, take time to check in with your body to make sure the regimen actually makes sense. It’s okay to take days off when your body needs it. And remember: Taking off a day from the gym won’t ruin your momentum.
Are daily workouts even realistic for me?
Even if your body can handle daily workouts, does it actually make sense for your lifestyle? If yes, great. If not, don’t beat yourself up. The key to any exercise routine is consistency. If you can consistently get to the gym three times a week most weeks, you’ll be better off than if you create a demanding workout schedule that you can’t stick to and ultimately abandon altogether. Quality will always trump quantity when it comes to working out, so be honest with yourself about how often you can consistently do challenging (but fun!) workouts that you’ll look forward to and enjoy. In the end, the routine you can stick to is going to be the best routine for you.