If you find the neverending stream of fitness advice on the ‘gram overwhelming, um, hi, same. Whether you want to run a record number of miles, get into strength training, lose weight, or just feel healthy, there’s so much conflicting info out there that even answering a simple question like “how often should I work out?” can feel downright impossible.

Ask five different fitness gurus whether you should exercise every day or just a few days per week—and how much sweat time you should dedicate to strength versus cardio—and you’ll get five different answers. Ugh. Can I just get the SparkNotes, please?

Don’t stress too much, though. Fitness pros do have some clear advice about how often you should work out—and what types of exercise you should focus on. First, though, you have to figure out your goals, says WH advisor Sohee Lee, CSCS, trainer and fitness educator. Three main buckets to consider: general health, weight loss, and building muscle. From there, be realistic about lifestyle factors like how much time you have.

All settled on your top sweat priority? Scroll on for the breakdown of how often to exercise (and how to approach your workouts) for each major goal. Goodbye confusion, hello results!

How often should you work out for general health?

If keeping your body and mind healthy is your priority numero uno, you can base your specific workout routine on what you enjoy—and just how much of your free time you want to spend sweating.

“Generally speaking, I think anywhere between three to six days a week works for most individuals,” says Lee. “The more sedentary you are in everyday life, the more I recommend doing some form of intentional movement most days.” If your job requires long hours at a desk, for example, you’ll benefit more from incorporating exercise every day. If you have a more physically demanding job, though, closer to three workouts a week might cut it.

For overall health, mix in both strength and cardio.

If you’re working out to feel good, don’t worry too much about how much cardio versus strength training you do in a given week.

“As a general rule for the general population, a 50-50 training split is a great starting point,” says trainer Kehinde Anjorin, NCSF, CFSC, founder of The Power Method. That means that if you work out four days a week, you’d do two days of strength training and two days of cardio. Easy-peasy, right?

How often should you work out for weight loss?

In many cases, healthy, sustainable weight loss is best achieved through a combo of exercise and both nutrition and behavior changes. With that in mind, if you’re aiming for weight loss you can sustain long-term, your workout schedule might look a little different than exercising for general health.

“For weight loss, working out three to four times per week is optimal,” explains Anjorin. “Long-lasting weight loss has no finish line, so you want to be able to maintain and prioritize this lifestyle to keep your results.” Shooting for three or four workouts per week gives you enough flexibility that you can stay on track week after week and month after month.

But another crucial factor for weight loss is being more active in general—even outside of formal workouts. “Generally, those who maintain higher activity levels (even if not in the form of formal exercise but in other activities such as walking while doing errands) tend to be more successful at maintaining weight loss,” Lee says. “They burn more calories throughout the day and expend more energy overall.” TL;DR: In addition to penciling in workouts, try to make daily routine changes that get you up and moving more. It’ll pay off in the long run.

Here’s how to approach cardio for weight loss.

As for how to craft your formal workouts? Let’s discuss. Though you might think that losing weight requires doing loads and loads of cardio, good news: “Long gone are the days of prescribing excessive cardio for weight loss,” says Anjorin. “Incorporating resistance training is more beneficial and effective for weight loss.”

Anjorin recommends incorporating about two days of cardio per week to start with. From there, add (or subtract!) cardio sessions (running, swimming, HIIT, kettlebell swings, etc.) based on how good you feel afterward. In short, cardio can really be whatever type of aerobic exercise that you like as long as it gets your heart rate up. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t stick with it, so finding types of cardio and other exercise you really enjoy is ultimately your golden ticket.

Here’s how to approach strength training for weight loss.

Like Anjorin said, strength training is your BFF if you’re trying to lose weight. Anjorin suggestt starting with three strength training days per week. “Start small using light or moderate weights and build from there,” she says.

Your goal: Continue to stress your muscles (and see the greatest benefits) by increasing the amount of weight you use at least every few weeks. Not sure which movements to start with? Try moves such as squats, pushups, and deadlifts, which use multiple large muscle groups and burn more calories, says Anjorin—which ultimately helps lead to weight loss. (Exercises that isolate smaller muscles don’t offer as much bang for their buck.)

Not sure where to start with strength training? Take this workout for a spin:

And make sure to take a couple of rest days per week when working out for weight loss.

“Rest days can vary from individual to individual, depending on your training schedule and workout intensity, sleep hygiene, and food quality,” Anjorin says. That being said, taking two rest days per week generally works well, as it ensures you have the recovery you need to push your body when you do get moving.

Of course, though: “Always listen to your body,” says Anjorin. If you’re feeling tired, there’s no reason *not* to take a chill day. Remember, losing and maintaining weight is a marathon, not a sprint.

How often should you work out if you want to build muscle?

Though three or four workouts per week is still a great place to start if you want to sculpt some muscle, how you spend your time during those workouts will be a little different than if you’re sweating for overall health or to lose weight, Anjorin says.

Here’s how to approach cardio when building muscle.

Want an invitation to ease up on the cardio workouts? Here it is: “I would suggest scaling back on the cardio when muscle building is the goal,” says Lee.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do any cardiobut you’ll want to take a specific approach. “When your goal is to build muscle, cardio should be supplemental and used for general conditioning and endurance,” explains Rebecca Kennedy, CPT, director of strength for Peloton. “It should come after strength work and be mostly low-intensity so you can build endurance without cannibalizing the efforts of your strength workouts.” (Basically, too much intense cardio can impact your muscles’ ability to recover from and adapt to strength training, ultimately stunting their growth.)

If you love cardio, stick with one HIIT workout, cycling class, or other harder session per week, suggests Kennedy. Otherwise, Lee recommends sticking to low-impact workouts like casual biking or swimming.

Here’s how to approach strength training in order to build muscle.

No surprise here: Strength training is *definitely* a must if you want to build that muscle, so focus as many of your workouts on it as possible, Anjorin says. Ideally, that means three to four strength workouts per week.

Compound movements like squats and deadlifts that fire up multiple big muscle groups are still the way to go here. However, progressively lifting more weight and tweaking your nutrition are extra important for building muscle.

“In order to build muscle, you have to keep progressing your load and challenging your muscles to grow,” says Anjorin. (Shoot for a weight you can lift for just about 10 to 12 reps to maximize that potential!) “Increasing protein intake and calories are also often overlooked, but without the appropriate nutrition, it’s hard to build any muscle mass,” she adds. Make sure to incorporate protein into every meal—especially those you nosh on before and after hitting the weights.

Don’t forget rest days when working out to build muscle.

Building muscle requires striking a fine balance between work and rest. “The muscle needs to be stimulated and also have time to recover and then adapt,” says Kennedy. “We want to avoid both over-training and under-training muscles.”

Depending on how new you are to strength training and how hard you push yourself, Kennedy recommends between two and four days sans weights per week. “With too little rest, the body doesn’t have the proper time to recover for your next workout,” she explains.

Again, your body will let you know what to do here. If you feel more tired than usual when ramping up your strength training, give yourself an extra rest day or two so those muscles can bounce back.

The bottom line: Just how often you should work out depends on your lifestyle, fitness level, and individual goals. But ultimately, balancing work and recovery is key whether you’re working out for overall health, weight loss, or building muscle.

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