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Is it safe to work out every day? Yes and no, according to a trainer

Working out every day can be safe and effective, but it depends on how you define working out.
young sportive woman training with an ab wheel
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When it comes to making exercise a consistent part of your life, establishing a fitness routine that works for you is key. We're all looking for that perfect balance: Exercising frequently enough to optimize our health, without working out too much and running the risk of injury or exhaustion.

Many clients come to me with the same question: Can I (or should I) work out every day?

The answer is yes and no — it depends on how you define working out.

I advise most people to engage in some form of movement every single day. When we move our bodies, oxygen and nutrients are delivered to tissues and the cardiovascular system works more efficiently during daily tasks. Not to mention that movement is an important contributing factor to our mental health, too. Especially during this busy time of year, taking time to move your body each day is an important way to lower your stress levels.

But moving every day doesn't necessarily mean "working out" in the traditional sense. What daily movement looks like for each person will, and should, vary. Let's break it down.

Do I have to work out every day?

If you're wondering whether you need to do a hardcore, sweat-inducing workout every single day, the answer is no. (That's a relief, right?) People are often intimidated by starting a fitness routine because they assume it means intense exercise every day, but your workout plan should also include low-impact, recovery activities like 20 minutes of walking, stretching, foam rolling or gentle yoga.

In fact, at the maximum, I recommend doing strength training three times a week for 30 minutes and cardio exercise five days a week for 30 minutes. Of course, if you are an athlete or training for a race, your workout schedule may be more intense than this. But those are my recommendations for people who are in generally good health and want to maintain a fitness routine.

The benefits of working out every day

Moving our bodies every day comes with some impressive health benefits, including improved circulation, heart health, muscle strength and flexibility, burning calories and speeding up the metabolism. Daily exercise can also help us maintain our mental health by improving mood, boosting energy and reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety and even depression. 

Symptoms of over exercising

Overexercising means to exercise too often, push yourself too hard, or not allow adequate recovery time between workouts. Besides general fatigue, this can lead to repetitive use injuries from doing the same type of movement, especially if it's being done incorrectly or with poor form. Exercising too frequently can also lead to strained or pulled muscles in the legs or a reduction in joint mobility around the shoulders and hips, especially if you aren't slowing down and taking time to stretch regularly.

If weight loss is your goal, you may think the more exercise the better. But pushing yourself too hard can backfire. I have seen many clients battle weight-loss plateaus from over-stressing their bodies. Your body can only handle so much stress and, while exercise is generally considered "good stress," too much of it can be taxing. That energy takes away from your body's ability to lose weight, digest food and a calm the nervous system.

How to work out every day the right way

For beginners, I recommend following a simple schedule: 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week.

It doesn’t matter what that workout is. It could be a 30-minute walk, 30 minutes of yoga, 30 minutes of lifting dumbbells or bodyweight exercises, or even 30 minutes of stretching!

On the two remaining days each week, I encourage people to do something leisurely, like a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood or foam rolling to loosen up the body.

Once you're able to commit to incorporating some type of movement into your routine every single day, you can tailor your workouts to your goals. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, include HIIT workouts a few days a week and break them up with a few days of yoga. HIIT workouts are an effective way to burn calories and boost your metabolism and yoga helps reduce cortisol levels and help the muscles recover.

The most important thing is to listen to your body. If you find that your body is constantly sore or fatigued, add in more active rest days to give your body more time for recovery. Take advantage of the days when you feel energized to get in a more rigorous workout. On days when you find yourself in the mood for a yoga session or a walk around the neighborhood, let that be your movement for the day!

In the end, it's a balanced, varied workout plan that will leave you feeling stronger and happier, allowing you to stick with it long-term and reach your goals.

Is it okay to work out multiple times a day?

The answer again is yes and no. As a trainer, and also a yoga and Pilates instructor, each day is different. I enjoy taking my morning walk every day for 20 minutes. Some days, I may do yoga for 20 minutes later in the morning; others I play tennis for 1-2 hours or do a 15-minute strength training workout. Some days I may do all three activities, whereas others I may only have time for my walk or a short yoga session.

What's important to note is that none of these workouts are overly strenuous. I'm not pushing myself to the max or huffing and puffing through them, and I'm not overly sore the next day. Therefore, this type of exercise snacking works for me.

These "exercise snacks" will look different for everyone, you may walk to work, take stretch or dance breaks throughout the day, play recreational sports — like tennis — and do a nighttime yoga routine to wind down before bed. Moving our bodies is something we begin to crave and more movement throughout the day is always a good thing.

Again, listen to your body. If you want to exercise 3 times a day for 20 minutes because it feels good, then do it! But if it’s torture, then don’t!

How can you tell if you are exercising too much?

There are some red flags to look out for that signal you may be overdoing it: If you are consistently sore from workouts, nursing injury after injury, don’t enjoy how much you’re exercising or you're not seeing the results you want to see, you might want to reconsider your workout schedule.

If you find that you're overexercising, you don't have to give up completely, though! Back off by training every other day or changing up your workout altogether. If you do CrossFit or HIIT workouts and feel like you’re beating yourself up, but not reaping the benefits like feeling better physically in your body, then back off and do lower-impact cardio (avoiding jumping!), Pilates or yoga to take pressure off of your joints.

More of your questions, answered!