Working out 5 days a week sounds too much to some people and not enough to others. Find out what direction applies the most.
The first important to note is that 5 exercise days a week can take many forms. Additionally, individual fitness levels play a big role in what your body can deal with.
That being said, most people will be able to create and follow an exercise routine where they work out 5 times a week in a safe way.
There is almost always a way to turn down the intensity and duration of soft exercises like for example walking to a point where your body can deal with this frequency.
Next, whether it is enough depends on your fitness goals, your body, and again what the 5 workouts will look like.
For goals like building muscle and losing weight, working out 5 days a week should be more than enough. More specifically, when it comes to losing weight, other lifestyle habits like nutrition often play a bigger role.
To hit the general exercise guidelines for good health, training 5 days a week could also be enough but you have to choose the right workouts and durations.
For this goal, training more often could be needed if you only have a small amount of free time each day.
Is working out 5 days a week too much?
A question many individuals have is whether exercising this often is even safe to do because it is a lot more than many people are used to.
Workouts involve challenging your body a lot. In the moment itself, this can be very stressful to the body. However, it is this stress that starts a variety of internal processes that make you stronger and healthier in the long term.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First of all, it is definitely possible to overdo it with a single workout, even if you exercise only once a week. How much is overdoing it depends on the current strength of your body.
Secondly, the strengthening processes mentioned above typically take some time and require you to consume enough nutrients.
Especially when it comes to lifting weights, you generally want to give the muscle groups you worked at least 24 hours of rest and provide your body with enough protein, vitamins, and minerals.
At the same time, while these things may sound somewhat scary, there are also plenty of exercises like walking, swimming, cycling, etc. that almost everyone will be able to do for at least some duration.
In short, most people will be able to work out 5 days a week without a problem as long as they turn down the intensity of their workout program enough.
Tips to avoid overdoing it
There are a few principles and tips that can help you exercise 5 times a week in safe ways.
The main one is that if you are not sure and want to avoid overtraining at all costs, you likely want to underestimate your capacities.
You can always start with very light workouts, potentially only one or two days a week, and slowly build up intensity and duration from there as long as everything goes well.
This will inevitably lead to missing out on some progress by not pushing yourself enough. At the same time, this approach can be helpful to avoid injuries.
Secondly, there are multiple ways to make sure something like lifting 5 days a week is done safely and successfully.
However, the main one you want to keep in mind to stay as far away from injuries as possible is to let the muscle groups you worked rest at least 24 to 48 hours instead of working them 5 days in a row.
For example, if you did heavy squats (a quadricep aka front thigh heavy exercise) one day, you likely don’t want to do heavy leg presses a few hours or even the day after. Your muscles need some time to repair and grow.
Is working out 5 days a week enough?
On the flip side, some people are also worried about whether working out 5 times a week is enough to hit their fitness goals.
To build muscle
The first popular fitness goal is growing and strengthening muscles.
From a high-level view, to achieve these goals you have to pressure the muscles with enough weight, repetitions, and sets, give your body enough nutrients, and give your body enough rest (including quality sleep).
How much is enough mostly depends on your current strength level and your body.
That being said, most people will be able to build muscle with far fewer than 5 weight lifting workouts a week.
More specifically, resistance training beginners can see nice muscle-building results with just 2 good full-body workouts or three to five 30-minute shorter workouts a week.
As these people get stronger over time, they will have to pressure their muscles more to keep seeing results. However, this can also be done by just increasing the weight, and not necessarily working out more days.
At the same time, there is a point where you may need to lift weights more often to see results. Even then, 5 sessions a week is likely enough to build a lot of muscle.
In short, if your main goal is to build muscle, working out 5 days a week is likely more than enough.
To lose weight
When it comes to losing weight, whether a certain exercise routine is enough to lose weight is relatively straightforward.
More specifically, you can lose weight without doing any exercise. In turn, any type of exercise routine, including working out 5 days a week, can be enough to lose weight.
The way you lose fat is by making it so your body requires more energy than is coming in from food. In a situation like this, your body starts using energy stores like body fat to get what it needs.
Working out can help you get to this point or speed up results by increasing the amount of energy your body needs to function.
However, other lifestyle areas like nutrition typically play a very big role in whether and to what extent weight loss happens.
So if you are working out 5 days a week but not losing weight or even gaining weight, you have two main options.
The first one is increasing the intensity of your workouts as long as you have the time and your body can deal with this.
However, most people will see more results by taking the second option which is taking another look at other lifestyle areas like nutrition and changing these up.
When it comes to the optimal amount of exercise for general health, human knowledge is not complete at all. Partly because there are so many personal differences.
That being said, there are still some general exercise guidelines. These are not perfect but do give you something to aim at and hitting them will likely be beneficial for your health.
At the time of writing, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends the following exercise guidelines to adults (1):
- Moving more and sitting less throughout the day
- At least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week. Preferably spread throughout the week.
- You can gain additional health benefits by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
- Muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
By choosing the right workouts and setting aside enough time, you should be able to fit these exercise guidelines in 5 exercise sessions a week.
That means you could consider a workout routine like this good enough for at least decent general health.
How long to see results from working out 5 days a week
It is normal to want to know what things you can expect in what timeframes from making positive changes in your life.
While it is hard to predict exactly how long it will take to see results from working out 5 days a week for every individual, there are some general things you can expect.
Results after one week
Implementing a workout routine can offer positive benefits for many many years to come. However, there are also results you can expect within one week or even the same workout.
For example, exercise generally improves your mood because of things like promoting the release of endorphins, so-called “feel-good” hormones (2, 3, 4). This should already be the case in your first workout.
Lastly, while it may take longer to see really significant results, there is already some extra calorie-burning, and in turn potentially weight loss, happening during your workouts.
For example, a 155-pound (70 kg) person running at 5.2 mph (8.4 kmh) for 30 minutes will burn around 330 calories which is about 0.09 pounds of body fat. Do keep in mind that these calories do not necessarily come from body fat.
Results over longer periods of time
The benefits above of course still apply but by changing the time frame you look at, it becomes even easier to see how valuable it is to implement a good exercise routine like working out 5 times a week.
Some of these more long-term benefits include:
- Potentially more muscle mass if you lift weights
- Better cardiovascular health
- Even better sleep
- Progressing more slowly in certain age measurements
- Improving muscle endurance
- Improving bone density
- Reducing the risk of a variety of conditions
Putting these benefits into exact numbers for everyone is (currently) not possible but if it were, a lot more people would find a workout routine and stick to it.