Q: Is it better to work out more days per week for shorter intervals or fewer days per week for longer intervals?
A: The answer to your question really depends on your personal preference and the type of exercise. When patients ask me what’s the best kind of exercise, my answer is always: “Whatever type of exercise that you will do on most days of the week.” In a nation of couch potatoes, suggesting that people find whatever kind of exercise works for them is sound health advice.
Major health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend that for good health and to reduce risk of chronic disease, adult Americans should participate in moderate-intensity aerobic (or cardio) exercise (such as brisk walking) for at least 30 minutes on 5 or more days of the week or vigorous-intensity cardio at least 3 days of the week. So the frequency really depends on the intensity that you choose to gauge your exercise bout. What’s more, research has shown that the 30 minutes can be cumulative, meaning it will be just as effective if you choose to divide the 30 minutes up into 10-minute bouts.
Aerobic exercise is not the only type of exercise that you need to try and fit in. The ACSM also recommends weight training exercise (8 to 10 different exercises and 9 to 12 repetitions of each exercise) 2 days a week. Weight training exercise is essential for enhancing muscular strength and endurance, helping to prevent the decline of muscle mass (and metabolic rate) that accompanies aging, and promoting bone health.