Wondering what exercises to do and how often? As a fitness professional, I’m often asked this question, and unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on your goals, abilities and interests. No matter what you do, make sure your activity adds up to at least 150 minutes per week, and your exercises should feel somewhat hard.

When planning your exercise for the week, ask yourself these questions first:

What are my fitness goals?
The type and volume of exercise will be different if you want to lose weight, build strength for a sport, or if you’re recovering from an injury.

What activities do I enjoy doing?
Do you love the Zen of Pilates, or are you more motivated by a high adrenaline HIIT workout? You’re more likely to exercise if you pick something you like to do. Figure out how to work what you like into your plan, whether it’s a class, a personal training session, or time carved out for your favorite type of exercise.

What days and times can I reserve for exercise?
Block out times on your calendar to attend a class, be active outdoors, play your favorite sport or work out in the gym. If you can exercise three days per week, block out 50-minute sessions. If you can fit in activity five days a week, plan for 30-minute workouts. Even 15 minutes a day will help you stay fit!

When scheduling your weekly workouts, make sure they incorporate these important fitness elements:

Stabilization is the building block for all fitness goals because it reduces the chance of injury. If your body is deconditioned, spend at least four weeks on this goal. If working out in a gym, use your body weight or very light weights. Choose exercises that require balance doing 1-3 sets of 12-20 repetitions. Pilates and TRX are examples of classes that help with stabilization.

If working out in the gym, use heavier weights to build strength, but reduce your repetitions to 8-10, doing 1-3 sets. Classes that focus on resistance training are great for strength. Another option is doing a circuit of exercises for the whole body including back, chest, legs and arms. Be sure to vary strength and stabilization activities during the week to avoid overtraining and injury.

Flexibility is important to incorporate into your exercise plan to help your muscles access a full range of motion. Yoga and other stretching classes are ideal for flexibility. At the very least, spend 10 minutes per day working on tight areas of your body. If you spend a lot of time sitting, get up often to stretch your hip flexors, chest, upper traps and hamstrings.

Maximize Calorie Expenditure
Choose activities where you stand and move as much as possible. If working out in a gym, limit your rest time between exercises, and alternate upper and lower body work during each set to get your heart pumping harder.

By Jennifer Slaboda