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I have been walking through Fitness Centers for over 16 years now both as an employee as well as a fellow fitness-fanatic.
Each day that I’m in the gym, I have seen individuals with a range of different gym habits.
There are the individuals at 5 a.m. looking to get a quick cardio session in for 45 minutes before hustling away to the showers to prepare for work. There are the mid-day gym-goers coming in for an express 30-minute circuit-training workout. And then there are the college kids and youths who are in the weight room for over two hours socializing about the most recent Cubs or Bears game, while throwing in a set here and there every few minutes.
Which gym member has the right idea? How long should you work out to see measurable results?
If you asked the average member at a fitness facility today, most will answer with "as much time as I have to get something done around my busy schedule." But this isn’t necessarily the correct answer for everyone.
There is a methodology to the madness, and I am here to help shed light on the situation so the next time you walk in the fitness center, you’ll be able to maximize your time (and intensity) for the results you seek!
To start, each individual should get a nice balance of both cardiovascular and strength-training exercise for health and wellness results.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. You can reach this goal in different ways.
For instance, you can do 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise three days per week.
If someone is looking to make that one continuous session or break it up into smaller bouts each day, the minimum according to ACSM is “at least 10 minutes of sustained, elevated heart rate above resting.”
To add to this, ACSM also suggests resistance training in tandem with cardio training to maximize results for weight loss, biometrics and body composition.
ACSM states adults should train each major muscle group 2-3 days each week using a variety of exercises that focus on compound movements ranging from 8-20 repetitions for 2-4 sets per muscle group.
Finally, a healthy balance of structured exercise also needs a prescription for flexibility.
ACSM, the leading authority and gold standard for exercise prescription nationally, suggests that adults should do flexibility exercise at least 2-3 days each week to improve range-of-motion. Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort, working to repeat each stretch 2-4 times, accumulating to 60 seconds per stretch.
In general, focus on a “marathon-mindset” and look at the effort to go the gym as a positive behavior over the long haul.
Short/difficult workouts should stay in the range of 20-30 minutes, moderate workouts should be 30-45 minutes and long/short workouts can range as far as 45-90 minutes. Most experts recommend not exceeding 75 minutes in a strength- or circuit-training format.
When I head to the gym, I practice what I preach; my workouts tend to be about an hour per day, five days a week, for the last 16 years.
I am staying consistent, focusing on the short- and long-term goals, and finding something I enjoy and can challenge myself with each day.
So the next time you are looking at your calendar and trying to figure out your workout, pencil in 20 or 30 minutes and determine what you want to do that day. Remember, fitness is more about the journey along the way than it is about the finish line. Start today and see where your health takes you!
Explore fitness programs at Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness.
Learn more from Healthy Driven Chicago:
Six ways exercise benefits your health
Five tips to start a fitness routine
Taking intimidation out of fitness
Seven tips to improve your fitness
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