How Long Should A Workout Be

When it comes to working out, the best advice people give is to choose an exercise that you enjoy since it helps you stay consistent with it. As we all know, consistency is key when it comes to seeing the results you desire. Another question that remains in people’s minds is how long should a workout be for it to be effective.

How long should a workout be is quite a subjective question. There is no size fits all when it comes to workouts and workout routines because they are customized from person to person.

A professional football player and an actor playing a superhero will not have the exact same workout routines simply because they are not the same person, their medical histories are different, their reasons for working out are different and the results they want to achieve from those workouts are different. How long should a workout be also depends from person to person?

Every exercise also has a different workout length. So, to know how long should a workout be, you need to know which exercise you are doing.

1. How Many Types Of Exercises Are There

There are various ways in which you can work out and each has its ideal workout duration. Let us learn about each exercise and its exercise duration.

1.1. Cardio exercises

It is probable that Cardio 1is the most popular form of exercise. It is also the kind of exercise we start when we start to get into fitness. Any kind of movement you do that elevates your heart rate to a level above your resting heart rate is Cardio. Some common cardio exercises people do are running, swimming, dancing, and cycling, among others.

It may not come as a surprise to some that cardio strengthens the heart. Why else do you think you go from barely finishing a 15-minute-long cardio session on your first exercise session and smashing a 45-minute session a week after? Constantly working on any part of the body or muscle group strengthens that muscle group. The same is true for the heart too.

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Photo by Chander R on Unsplash

Cardio is also great for patients with high blood pressure, it also helps people with anxiety issues and mental strain. Doctors even recommend incorporating running or cycling sessions into your weekly routine if you are someone who has trouble sleeping or dealing with depression.

1.1.1. How Long Should A Cardio Workout Be

There are various intensities to cardio exercises and the optimal workout length for them depends on how vigorous the exercises are and how physically active you are.

A low-intensity workout can take your heart rate and elevate it up to 50% of your maximum heart rate. Some examples of this kind of exercise are taking a brisk walk in the park and cycling at a casual pace. These exercises are low in intensity and low impact too. You are not likely to strain your muscles or suffer any injuries due to bad form while doing these basic exercises.

Your workout length when performing Low-intensity exercises should be long, ideally between 40 to 60 minutes for you to see the results that you want quickly. This does not mean that a 30-minute-long aerobic fitness session would not suffice for someone who is just starting with exercising.

Remember, consistency is what’s most important here. Doing daily exercises will benefit you more than doing HIIT workouts back to back for a week and then giving up.

HIIT 2session or High-Intensity Interval Training program is a vigorous exercise program that can take your heart rate to over 70% of your normal heart rate. This workout is a great way to lose weight because when your heart rate goes over 70% of your MHR3, your body goes into a stage where it burns calories even when you are stationary.

To answer how long should a workout be when it comes to HIIT, the best results are achieved when a person does a solid 30 seconds of explosive cardio, like burpees or mountain climbers, an exercise where you must perform to your optimal capacity and get your heart rate to reach as high as you can get it.

These grueling 30 seconds of a HIIT workout are then followed by a recovery period or rest time. The objective of rest periods is to get your heart rate back to normal so that you can perform to your best capacity in the next 30 seconds of pure high-intensity cardio.

Following this interval training program for 30 minutes thrice per week can show you shocking results if it is weight loss you are after. These shorter workouts are super effective.

1.2. Weight Training Or Resistance Training

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you read the words Weight Training? Are you imagining a gym enthusiast with a body like Thor or Superman, lifting heavy weights and flexing his biceps? You wouldn’t be completely wrong in imagining this is what happens when you engage in a strength training session, but that is not all you do and it is not just for huge men who look like they could lift a truck.

Strength training or weight training is any physical activity where you lift any weight, it can even be your body weight for the purpose of building muscle mass and improving your balance and overall health. We don’t aspire to build muscle just for aesthetic reasons, training important muscle groups and building muscle through resistance training also has a lot of health benefits.

Gaining muscle makes you stronger and capable of doing simple things like lifting lighter weights, such as grocery bags, with ease. Muscle growth in your legs and glutes also helps improve balance and reduce the chances of falling. Strength training also helps in fat loss because the more muscle mass you have, the better your metabolism will be and you will lose weight at a quicker pace.

Strength training or weight training is any physical activity where you lift any weight, it can even be your body weight for the purpose of building muscle mass and improving your balance and overall health. We don’t aspire to build muscle just for aesthetic reasons, training important muscle groups and building muscle through resistance training also has a lot of health benefits.

1.3. How Long Should A Workout Be Strength Training

How long should a workout be when it comes to resistance training depends on various factors like the age of the person, overall health, the number of repetitions he or she performs, the number and duration of rest periods in between exercises, and how far in their workout journey the person is.

1.3.1. Warm Up

woman doing a warm up before workout
Photo by Alex Shaw on Unsplash. Copyrighted 2020.

Before starting any workout, doing a warm-up set is crucial because prepares those muscles for the workout that is to come. Skipping your warm-up sets and stretches can cause injuries, anywhere from a muscle pull to something extremely serious like a hamstring tear.

Your warm-up4 sets no matter what exercise you follow up with, should not be less than 5 minutes and they should be chosen, keeping in mind the parts of the body you are to be working in your workout duration.

1.3.2. The Main Session

How long should a workout be when it comes to lifting weights depends on how long you can keep on exercising multiple muscles without compromising your exercise intensity and efficiency.

If you have been working out for 30 minutes and your energy levels have started to go down, it is best to leave the gym for the day instead of carrying on with your workout program with half a heart.

Performing your workouts with anything less than 100% concentration and the ability to smash it is not an ideal thing to do. If you are doing your workouts half-heartedly, you are unlikely to get the same results you would have, had you been giving your workout your all.

Therefore, it is said to keep your workouts long enough that you can perform to the best of your ability. There is no point in staying at the gym for 2 hours when your performance dropped somewhere around the 50-minute mark.

man lifting weights.
Photo by Anastase Maragos on Unsplash. Copyrighted 2020.

Having said that, the optimal way to build muscle and make your body stronger is by doing multiple reps of each exercise you do instead of doing one rep of multiple exercises. For gaining strength, exercises like lifting weights, bench presses, and other resistance workouts should be repeated 8 to 12 times in your training session.

For Hypertrophy5, also associated with building muscle and increasing muscle size, lifting sessions should be with heavier weights and have 4 to 6 repetitions. The time that the muscles are engaged in lifting and lowering weights is called Time-Under-Tension.

Your muscles should not be under too much strain for more than 3 seconds. Lifting the weight for a second, holding the weights stable up top for another second, and lowering the weights for the last second.

1.3.3.  Rest Periods

If it is important to lift weights to build muscle, so is incorporating adequate rest periods for recovery of the muscle groups that were under tension. Rest periods should be anywhere from 1 minute up to 3 minutes depending on the person and their requirements.

Counting warm-up sets, the main sets, rest periods, and cool-down sets, the strength session doesn’t need to go on for longer than 50 minutes. This is how you know how long should a workout be.

2. Bodyweight Exercises

Women performing a side plank
Photo by Boxed Water Is Better on Unsplash. Copyrighted 2021.

As we have all been made aware over the last two years, we do not need expensive machines, a large variety of dumbbells, or a gym membership to get your workout in. Ever since COVID 6hit and the world was going through one lockdown after another, we have all experienced and learned that we can work out at home, using nothing but our body weight and a few water bottles as weight.

It does not matter whether your goal is to lose weight or build muscle, it can all be done through the bodyweight training program. Some popular bodyweight exercises are pull-ups, push-ups, planks, squats, and jumping jacks, to name a few. Full body workouts that can be found on YouTube come under Bodyweight training.

These exercises are accessible, you don’t even have to leave the house for them, they are an effective workout type, they are cost efficient and they are even good for movement of the body. Now, how long should a workout be when comes to bodyweight workouts?

2.1. How Long Should A Bodyweight Workout Be

A typical workout program can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 40 minutes. The exercises are also performed in repetitions with rest times to get the best results. Keeping the warm-up, cool-down, number of exercises, and repetitions, you come to know how long should a workout be.

3. Yoga

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Photo by Ginny Rose Steward on Unsplash. Copyrighted 2020.

Yoga is a form of exercise that looks like it does nothing for the body because from the outside looking in, it looks like doing Yoga is easy and therefore, must not deliver proper results. The opposite ends up being true because the people who do Yoga will tell you how much they sweat and how their bodies end up feeling like jelly after just the first exercise of a session.

Yoga is a physical activity that combines full body movements and it trains the entire body in every session. The different asanas target different parts of the body and strengthen them all. Yoga does not make you lose fat as fast as HIIT sessions would since they burn more calories, but it does facilitate weight loss and tone up the body gradually.

The exercises performed here are mainly bodyweight exercises, they start you off with simple body movements that would not be hard for you to follow and slowly and gradually, the intensity and difficulty of the workouts increase.

Exercises that ensure upper body strength like the Downward dog position and the side planks not only help you in your weight loss journey but also improve your balance and flexibility.

3.1 How Long Should A Yoga Session Be

How long should a workout be when it comes to yoga is again, entirely up to the person performing it. There is no need to feel guilty if you were only able to do the exercises for 15 minutes, people with a busy schedule often do a 15-minute session in the morning before getting ready for the day. It all depends on the training frequency anyway.

It is important to note that just because it may look easy for some people, it most definitely is not so do not try to attempt advanced-level poses when you are just getting started.

Like any other form of exercise, you need to build up your endurance and your body needs to be strong enough for poses like the Scorpion handstand, the Crane pose or the One-legged Crow pose.

Woman performing yoga
Photo by Katie Bush on Unsplash. Copyrighted 2020.

These exercises sure do look cool but the people who do these didn’t develop the ability to execute them in a day. They too started from scratch and built their endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility one day at a time.

Therefore, do not think that doing a 2-hour long workout will teach you all you need to know, you will need shorter sessions with personal trainers to guide you, more warm-up sets to prepare your body for the workouts, and long rest periods for the body to recover properly.

Without doing all these things, doing long workouts can lead to serious injuries because Yoga asanas compel you to move and bend your body in ways that it is not used to.

4. Factors That Determine The Best Exercises 

There are a lot of factors that determine which exercises and of what duration should make up your workout routine. An effective workout routine is that which helps you achieve your workout goal and make sure you are healthy, both mentally and physically. The things that are kept in mind while preparing a workout plan are as follows.

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Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash

4.1. Enjoyment

It is extremely important to enjoy your workouts because it is not something you have to do for just a day or two. To get the results you want, not only do you have to follow a good workout routine, but you have to be consistent with it.

If you think of it as a chore that you have no choice but to do, you will not be able to be consistent with it because you will always dread it and think of quitting.

A great way of staying consistent with your workouts is by enjoying them and looking forward to them.

4.2. Diversity

Diversity in your workouts is very important because the whole body needs to be trained, not just targeted muscle groups. Doing the same kind of exercise daily can also turn boring very quickly and once it got boring, you will not want to do it. Incorporating different types of exercises into your routine also reduces the chances of injury.

A great workout regime is one where we have a healthy combination of strength training, endurance training, balance exercises, and flexibility exercises.

4.3. Workout Intensity

Workout intensity refers to the amount of energy that is lost while performing a workout. If you are a beginner when it comes to working out, it is best to alternate between high-intensity and low-intensity cardio workouts. Performing high-intensity interval training workouts every day will burn you out and can even lead to injuries.

So when you get asked how long should a workout be for high-intensity training, your answer should be not more than 30 minutes.

Therefore, doing cardio one day and alternating with another exercise that is low intensity like Pilates or Strength training session would not put too much of a toll on your body and also keep the exercises fresh.

5. What Does An Ideal Workout Program Look Like

It has already been established above that working out has more benefits than one can count on one’s fingers. They are not done solely for looking a certain way, although losing weight and wanting to transform your appearance if that is what you want to do, is also a completely valid reason to work out.

The more we realize what a positive impact aerobic fitness has on our physical and mental health and how lifting weights doesn’t just make us look buff but also have strengthened our mind and body, we want to learn about what else can be achieved through working out consistently and questions like how long should a workout be started popping up in our heads.

A good workout should cater to your entire body and should strive to not only improve the overall look of your body but also the way you move, the way you carry yourself, and the way you perform day-to-day activities like bending down to lift a toy off the ground or carrying your kid on your back.

6. Conclusion

You can surely commence working out with a singular goal in mind like weight loss or wanting to achieve a lean body mass, or you could have other goals which are not appearance related like entering into a sport or competition.

But, the more time you spend on this fitness journey, you will realize that you are achieving so much more than just the goals you initially joined for. Long workouts, short workouts, more calories, and fewer calories, all change from person to person. What remains common is a great, healthy body and a great healthy mind.


1. How long should a workout be?

A: The duration of a workout can vary depending on various factors, including your fitness goals, fitness level, and the type of exercise you are engaging in. However, a general guideline is to aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, spread out over several days.

2. Can I have shorter workouts and still see results?

A: Yes, shorter workouts can still be effective, especially if you engage in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or other forms of intense exercise. HIIT workouts involve short bursts of intense activity followed by brief recovery periods. These workouts typically range from 10 to 30 minutes in duration but can provide significant benefits in terms of cardiovascular fitness and calorie burning.

3. Should the duration of my workout change based on my fitness goals?

A: Yes, the duration of your workout can vary based on your fitness goals. If your primary focus is building strength and muscle mass, you may want to allocate more time for resistance training exercises and devote separate workout sessions to different muscle groups. On the other hand, if weight loss is your goal, a combination of both cardiovascular exercise and strength training, coupled with a balanced diet, is generally recommended.


Read more

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  2. Martin-Smith, Rhona, et al. “High intensity interval training (HIIT) improves cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) in healthy, overweight and obese adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled studies.” International journal of environmental research and public health 17.8 (2020): 2955. ↩︎
  3. Villanueva, Danielle Louis E., et al. “Monocyte to High-Density Lipoprotein Ratio (MHR) as a predictor of mortality and Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events (MACE) among ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) patients undergoing primary percutaneous coronary intervention: a meta-analysis.” Lipids in health and disease 19 (2020): 1-8. ↩︎
  4. Hu, Xiaosong, et al. “Battery warm-up methodologies at subzero temperatures for automotive applications: Recent advances and perspectives.” Progress in Energy and Combustion Science 77 (2020): 100806. ↩︎
  5. Sartori, Roberta, Vanina Romanello, and Marco Sandri. “Mechanisms of muscle atrophy and hypertrophy: implications in health and disease.” Nature communications 12.1 (2021): 330. ↩︎
  6. Zaim, Sevim, et al. “COVID-19 and multiorgan response.” Current problems in cardiology 45.8 (2020): 100618. ↩︎

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Yashi Singh

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