Updated: May 27, 2020
When exercise is utilized properly, you reap the benefits of a boosted metabolism at rest, decreased risk of chronic fatigue, and an elevated mood. You've probably experienced any one of these positive side effects if you have ever been part of an exercise program. Maybe you've even felt the "runner's high". To put it simply, working out can make you feel really great while achieving the positive side effects of an increased metabolism.
However, there is such a thing as working out too much. Of course, the exact amount will vary depending on each individual, but in general, working out too much can be just as harmful as not working out at all. Too much exercise can cause muscle breakdown, decreased metabolism, a disruption in your hormone balance, decreased deep sleep, and weight gain.
So... how much should you workout then?
That's the big question. The answer - as frustrating as this may sound - is that it depends. BUT there are some great rules of thumb to stick to while figuring out exactly how much exercise is right for your body.
1. If you use HIIT (high intensity interval training) do up to 2 sessions per week. HIIT is great for training your heart rate variability and tapping into fat stores. But too much of the high intensity stuff can also cause your body to burn out and lead to fatigue, weight gain, and feelings of grogginess. Up to 2 sessions per week is ideal.
2. Strength train 3-4 times per week. And make sure that you aren't using the same body parts back to back. For example, if you did lower body on Monday, make sure you do a core, upper body, or a cardio session on Tuesday. This allows that part of the body to rest and repair post workout.
3. Mix it up with your cardio, but get it in everyday. Remember, cardio isn't just running. In fact, I prefer walking. If running is your thing, try to keep it up to 3 days per week. Running raises your cortisol levels so it's important to not run everyday. You can also mix it up with other forms of cardio such as biking, swimming (which I've recently re-fallen in love with), stairs, and walking. You can go for long walks everyday, so on active rest days, make sure to utilize that!
And pssst... don't forget that the time of day you work out is really important too! Check out everything you need to know about when you should workout HERE.
Bottom line, working out more is not always better. It's all about finding the schedule that works for you and your body. If you feel tired on a day you planned to do HIIT, then go for a walk! If you're feeling extra energized on a day you plan to leisurely swim, then make your swim workout a sprint training! Just make sure that you're listening to your body with every change you make. And P.S. ~ that may change as you become more physically fit! Periodically checking in with your body ever 2-3 weeks is ideal to find the exact type and number of days to work out.