There are a few questions I always get asked once people find out I'm a trainer. The first is, "How often do you work out (if you really want to know, read this)"; then it's, "How can I get lean (here's what an expert has to say about that)"; and the third questions is, "How often should I be working out to [insert goal here]." Most of the time that goal is weight loss, and although I try to focus on things like becoming more functional and stronger with clients, I know it's a genuine question people have.
How Often Beginners Should Work Out For Weight Loss
In general, I try to avoid the one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to health and wellness because we're all different. Typically, for a true beginner (someone who has been sedentary and never worked out), I recommend two to three workouts a week. This may sound like a lot, especially for someone who is new to fitness, but I design the workouts to be performed at a moderate intensity. An example of this could be lower body, upper body, and total body with a day of rest in between each. If you want to do more, use your rest days to do low-intensity activities, like yoga or simply walking more.
At this stage, quality over quantity is preferred. I recommend paying attention to how you're handling the workouts and how your body feels. If you're extremely sore and can't move, that's a good indicator to scale back. If your workouts feel easy and you're never sore, that's an indicator to increase your load and intensity.
How Often Intermediate/Advanced People Should Work Out For Weight Loss
For those with experience working out (someone who has an understanding of the fundamentals and a general exercise foundation), I recommend between three and five sessions a week. Because you're doing more sessions per week, there's a lot you can with your programming. I like to break up workouts by muscle groups and also mix up the style of training. One day, it may be a circuit, a sprint and explosive power session the next day, followed by total body, then a conditioning workout. This is just an example, and similar to beginners, it's important to listen to your body. If you aren't recovering or eating well, it's going to be hard to sustain this load.
Other Things to Consider When Working Out For Weight Loss
Ultimately, how often you should train will come down to your goals, what you like and dislike, and your physical abilities. As always, remember that these are general guidelines, and every trainer will have a different approach. During your weight-loss journey, it's important to remember that everyone will respond differently to exercise. Someone may work out two times a week and lose six pounds in a month, while someone else could work out four times a week and only lose three pounds.
Second, nutrition is equally as important as your workout routine. In my opinion, there isn't a perfect diet to follow — find one that you like and can sustain long-term. And just in case you were wondering, you don't have to follow a complicated or extremely restrictive diet like, the keto diet. As a nutrition coach, I generally advise clients to begin eating more whole, minimally processed foods before tackling more complex ways of eating.
Results won't happen overnight; stay focussed on your goals, find what works best for you, and be patient and consistent. If you don't have a trainer and aren't sure what to do, start with any of these workout plans:
- A four-week beginner plan that will teach you how to lifts weights
- A plan that will help you burn fat and build muscle
- A four-week plan to get in shape and build muscle
- A seven-day walking workout plan