How Long Should Your Workouts Be?

A woman exercising.

Working out can be overwhelming, especially when it turns into a game of 21 questions.

"What equipment do I need? Do I need to join a gym? What should I wear? What moves do I need to do? Do I need to do cardio and strength training?"

The questions don't stop there. In fact, they usually continue into the actual workout, as you ask yourself, "How long do I need to keep doing this?"

How Long Should My Workout Be?

As you may have guessed, there's no one-size-fits-all answer.

There are several factors to consider when choosing the length of your workout. The most important one to identify is what your main goals are.

"Are they health-related, fitness-related, performance-related or weight-related?" says Loudy Wiggins, a personal trainer and a nutrition and wellness coach. "It's really important to just move your body when you can--this has been shown to have an improvement on health and mindset."

Some trainers suggest shorter workouts--especially for beginners--to help you get used to fitting it into your schedule.

"A great workout can be had in any amount of time," says Sebastien Lagree, personal trainer and developer of the Supraformer. "However, a shorter workout is better because it's less of a time commitment, which people are most likely to stick with."

Most trainers would agree on one thing: You shouldn't simply stick with one set length for your workouts. Varying your routine helps ensure your body doesn't get used to one type or length, and this helps build strength and improve mobility over time.

Know What's Right For You

Again, the first step is to understand your goals.

"You need to choose the right exercise for your desired end result," says Josh Carter, owner and trainer at Fit Body Boot Camp. "Instead of asking if the length of the workout should depend on the exercise, ask instead if you have chosen the right exercise for your goal, which will then, at least in part, dictate the optimal workout length."

For example, if you're trying to lose some weight and you're only able to work out three days a week, schedule two 40-minute, high-intensity interval training sessions. Additionally, try to get in a 30- to 40-minute low-intensity cardio workout. On the other days, aim to move around whenever your schedule allows it.

On the contrary, if your goal is to run a marathon, your plans should be different. According to Carter, your workouts will need to be long (usually hours) in order to appropriately condition yourself for the 26.2-mile trek.

In general, Lagree recommends at least 20 minutes of vigorous activity daily. His reasoning? "Our body was engineered to move."

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About the Author

Ashley Lauretta

Ashley Lauretta (formerly Erickson) is a national writer and fitness enthusiast based in Austin, Texas. Her writing appears in Women's Running, Women's Adventure, Competitor and more. Ashley is a proud alumna of the University of California, San Diego. Find her online at ashleylauretta.com and @ashley_lauretta.

Ashley Lauretta (formerly Erickson) is a national writer and fitness enthusiast based in Austin, Texas. Her writing appears in Women's Running, Women's Adventure, Competitor and more. Ashley is a proud alumna of the University of California, San Diego. Find her online at ashleylauretta.com and @ashley_lauretta.

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