Every day.

Thanks for reading.

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Just kidding… but not really. While some form of daily exercise is always recommended, it can of course get a bit more confusing than this. What type of exercise is OK to do every day? Should you break a sweat? How long should sessions last? What’s too hard to do too often?

These are all legitimate concerns, and we’re gonna do our best to clarify all of this. But before we lay out a black or white, definitive answer, there are a few things to consider before answering this.

When you exercise, there are varying intensities at which you can perform your training. We’ll classify these as high, medium, or low threshold training. Each intensity taxes your body and nervous system a bit differently, which means they require varying levels of recovery in order for you to see any sort of gains or progress. So take a look at what typically falls into each category of intensity.

High intensity – activities that heavily tax your body and/or nervous system. High intensity forms of exercise require longer bouts of recovery, usually 48-72 hours. If done on consecutive days for longer periods, you can find yourself feeling rundown, beat up, and actually see your progress stall or regress.

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  • Sprints, or any type of cardiovascular activity where 100%, all out effort is given for <10 seconds (high intensity interval training)
  • Advanced plyometrics, or explosive exercise
  • Heavy compound lifts with loads equal to >90% of your estimated 1 rep maximum (1-4ish reps). Typically these are your bigger, main lifts (squats, deadlifts, Olympic lifts, bench press, chin-ups, shoulder press, and most of their variations)

Medium intensity – activities that moderately tax your body and/or nervous system. Medium intensity is a step down from the activities listed above, but still require around 24-48 hours of recovery for you to fully see continual progress.

  • Tempo cardiovascular work (think of these as medium intensity intervals… not quite a sprint but not a leisure pace alternated with low intensity bouts)
  • Steady state cardio where your heart rate stays between 110-140 beats per minute
  • Medium/low intensity plyometrics
  • Moderate intensity resistance training with loads equal to 70-85% of your estimated 1 rep max (5-12ish reps)
    • These will consist of compound* and/or single joint movements. Usually these will be your accessory lifts to your main lifts (lunges, rows, pushups, direct core work, isolation movements for specific muscles or body parts)

*Compound lifts can also be considered moderate intensity if the loads and volume used aren’t crazy

Low intensity – activities that barely tax your body and/or nervous system. These are activities that you can do every day with little to to no recovery needed in the following days.

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  • Low intensity cardiovascular work (typically your longer duration, slower paced cardio)
  • Walking
  • Mobility drills (foam rolling, stretching, etc.)
  • Breathing drills
  • Isolation resistance training for smaller muscle groups like your rotator cuff (as long as volume and intensity are kept in check)
  • Low intensity core exercises (planks variations, deadbug variations, side plank variations, pallof press variations (assuming you’re not a beginner)
  • Most bodyweight movements (again, assuming you’re not a beginner. Beginners may find their own body weight to be plenty of resistance to work with)

Having said all that…

There are a few bare minimums that everyone should strive to hit when it comes to exercise frequency.

Everyone should strength train at least two times per week. These sessions should focus on mostly medium intensity lifts with some high intensity work mixed in.

Strength is the foundation from which all other fitness qualities are built. Endurance, aesthetics, joint health, mobility… all of these things are easier when you are stronger. Guaranteed. Make it a top priority to strength train regularly.

Everyone should do some form of low intensity cardiovascular work and/or mobility work on a DAILY basis.

Walking is by far the easiest way to achieve this with 10k steps per day being a solid goal to hit for everyone. Mobility work is also a fantastic way to keep your joints mobile and healthy. Making it a priority to regularly take your joints through their full ranges of motion is incredibly important because when it comes to joint mobility, if you don’t use it, you lose it. This is why folks with desk jobs and sedentary lifestyles tend to leave so many people tight and immobile after so many years.

As long as you’re hitting those 2 minimum requirements, the question of ‘how often should you exercise’ really comes down to an individual’s goals and lifestyle preferences. Here’s a simple (and very general) way to look at it based on goals the general population might have.

The “I hate exercising” crowd (don’t be in this crowd)

  • A 20 minute walk per day at the bare minimum
  • AT LEAST one strength training session per week (2 is ideal)
  • 5-10 minutes of some form of daily mobility work to hopefully offset the negative outcome a sedentary lifestyle brings about
  • Overall: 7 days per week of low intensity exercise, 1-2 days of medium intensity strength training

The “I just want to feel better” crowd

  • A 20 minute walk per day
  • 1-3 days medium intensity cardiovascular exercise
  • 2-3 strength training sessions per week (mostly medium intensity work with some high intensity work sprinkled in)
  • 5-10 minutes of daily mobility work
  • Overall: 7 days per week of low intensity work, 2-3 days of mostly medium intensity strength training)

The “I wanna look good naked” crowd

  • A 20 minute walk per day
  • 2-6 days of medium intensity cardiovascular exercise depending on the individual
  • 1-2 days of high intensity cardiovascular exercise
  • 3-4 strength training sessions per week (a blend of medium and high intensity work with more volume coming from medium intensity work)
  • 5-10 minutes of daily mobility exercise
  • Overall: 7 days per week of low intensity work, 2-3 days medium intensity cardiovascular exercise, 3-4 strength training sessions blending medium and high intensity work

The “I wanna look like a cover model” crowd

  • A 20 minute walk per day
  • 4-7 days of medium intensity cardiovascular exercise depending on the individual
  • 1-3 days of high intensity cardiovascular exercise
  • 4+ strength training sessions per week (blending medium and high intensity days
  • 5-10 minutes of daily mobility work
  • Overall: 7 days per week of low intensity exercise, 4 days of medium intensity cardiovascular work, 1-2 days of high intensity cardiovascular, 4+ days strength training blending medium and high intensities

So a couple notes on these:

  • It’s totally doable to perform medium and high intensity methods of exercise on the same days. Same goes for lower intensity and medium intensity, etc. You just need to be smart about not having too many of the same intensity days consecutively, especially higher intensities.
  • Is this list concrete? Hell no. It’s just to give you an idea. There are TONS of exceptions and ways to organize your training. This is just a way to think about things.

 

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