How Long Should a Good Workout Last?

By Kate Harveston – March 20, 2020

Do you have to spend hours on a treadmill to get an effective workout? If not, how long do you need to move to get the results you want in the gym? Is it possible to work out too much?

When it comes to fitness, there’s little legitimate information out there — and a ton of junk science. In the end, determining how long to hit it depends on the results you want. The format of your workout also plays a role. It’s possible to perform a terrific fitness routine in a short time frame if you go hard.

Prevailing Myths About Workout Length

One of the most prevalent myths in the gym is that exercising too long will stunt your progress. You might have read that working out for longer than 45 to 60 minutes causes cortisol to flood your body and eat your lean muscle tissue. Please, forget this myth, stat.

While your body has an internal clock in the form of metabolism, it isn’t a stopwatch. It doesn’t hit a switch and open a floodgate of cannibal hormones hungry for your biceps. However, if you’re a heavy-duty powerlifter, you might need significantly more time in the gym to get the desired results because you need to rest between sets.

Think about the hulking guys you see sitting around the stacks of impossibly large dumbbells. It might not look like they’re working hard at all. Nevertheless, when you’re pumping a 3-rep max, your muscles need lengthier rest time between sets.

Don’t let this fact make you think you have to spend hours in the gym if you want to see fantastic results. Many components make up total fitness, including cardiovascular health and flexibility. Fitness doesn’t hinge on the size of your biceps — it’s possible to be very strong but still suffer adverse health effects from neglecting your heart.

For example, taking a 15-minute walk each day can improve your circulation. If your job requires you to sit or stand in one place for a considerable time, make short strolls a priority throughout your shift. Will you get in the recommended amount of cardiovascular exercise this way? Yes. Will you necessarily hit the gym at all? Nope.

Furthermore, if you’re a busy new mom, or if you’re a member of the gig economy, you might lack a spare hour to spend at the fitness center. Still, you can find apps that feature short workouts — as little as five minutes! Don’t hesitate to break an extended routine into shorter bursts, if doing so fits your needs.

How Long Should I Work out to Reach My Goals?

Let’s examine three hypothetical exercisers. You might see yourself in one or more of these examples. Feel free to modify these suggestions to suit your schedule, and remember to balance your goals with practicality.

-The New Year’s Resolution-Maker

This gym rat knows they need to prioritize their health and shed a few pounds. They struggle with intrinsic motivation, and they revel in the camaraderie of others. Going to the gym represents an item on their to-do list they want to check off.

For this individual, group workouts make everything easier, and they do well to hit the gym with a partner for 30 to 45 minutes several times per week. They’ll also enjoy traditional fitness classes that follow a 50- to 60-minute format for variety.

-The Dedicated Bodybuilder

This individual might spend hours in the gym — and they might spend considerable time there slacking. However, these folks are concerned with statistics like their one-rep max, and they’re looking to pack on massive muscles. They need the additional rest between sets to prevent injury and reach their goals.

-The Harried Multitasker

This fitness enthusiast loves working out, but their hectic lifestyle prohibits spending hours pumping iron. They might work more than one job, or their home and career responsibilities keep them hopping. They may frequently travel, making regular gym memberships a waste of money.

These exercisers can squeeze in several shorter workouts throughout the day, rather than try to carve out a substantial portion of time. They can also perform compound movements and maximize their time by working more than one muscle group at once.

How Long Should You Work out? It Depends on Your Goals

The bottom line? The length of your workout will vary depending on your goals and your lifestyle. Fitness isn’t one-size-fits-all — as long as you’re moving, you’re lapping everyone on the couch!


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