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How often should you work out?

Last updated on: March 13, 2014 08:33 IST

How often should you work out?

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Brinda Sapat

How often, how long, how intense should your workouts be? Fitness expert Brinda Sapat offers her take.

The latest fitness buzz is all about short, high intensity training workouts 4 or 5 times a week.

And then you hear of the calm yoga workout or of celebrities working out really hard two hours a day, every day!

So what does one believe?

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Image: Actress Neha Dhupia during a workout.
Photographs: Rediff Archives

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How often should you work out?

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How often?

4 or 5 days of physical activity is required for almost everybody.

The human body has been designed to move and must get this basic amount of exercise, even if it is merely walking.

Anything less doesn't count for much and won't get you results.

If you are a beginner, you should start with thrice a week, gradually building up.

For those who are already into a fitness regime, frequency could go up to 6 days a week.

A break of 1 or 2 days in the week is necessary for the body to rest and recover and should ideally be taken the day after more intense workouts.

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Image: Actress Katrina Kaif works out.
Photographs: Rediff Archives
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How long?

Short bursts of high intensity exercise (20 minutes or so) have been proven to be as effective as longer moderately paced ones (45 to 60 minutes).

While both give similar results, they do have their distinct advantages.

Quick workouts are more functional and help you in your day-to-day life -- making a dash for the bus or train, hopping over a ditch etc.

Sustained long workouts condition the heart to work at high levels over a long stretch of time and help improve stamina levels -- chasing your kids around the park perhaps!

Most high intensity training workouts are quick combinations of cardio and strength moves and work the body as a whole unit.

A longer period allows you to do concentrated work on cardio and weight training separately where you can focus on individual muscles.

Get the best of both. Alternate between short and long exercise duration.

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Image: Actress Shilpa Shetty during a workout.
Photographs: Rediff Archives
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How intense?

Ok, this is important, so listen up!

Effectiveness is at its best when you workout at the edge of your comfort zone. This is the point between exercising comfortably and when working out gets tough.

You should feel as though you are pushing yourself past what you find easy and into tougher territory.

Your heart rate should be up, but you should be able to speak.

With fitness goals wanting to be achieved ASAP, a lot of people push themselves to an unreasonable intensity. Big mistake!

Firstly, it is dangerous. While your mind may be super motivated, your muscles, heart and lungs may not be strong enough to cope with the demand you are putting on them.

It can cause serious health problems.

Secondly, it is impossible to maintain such high intensity training over a period of months and years, thus making your achieved result very short lived.

Elite athletes have their careers riding on being in top fitness conditions. They put their bodies through extreme training that would be considered dangerous to the rest of us.

Celebrities too follow highly intense workouts and extreme diets. It is not advisable to base your workouts on theirs.

So no matter what you read, see or hear follow the norms and stay safe, get fit and look great.


Image: Actress Bipasha Basu in action.
Photographs: Reebok ad campaign
Tags: ASAP

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