I hear one version or another of this question all the time…

“What should I be doing every week for exercise?”

“How long should I be working out for?”

“What should I be doing for exercise each week?”

A study recently published in “The Lancet Psychiatry Journal” is one of the largest of its kind, and had some interesting numbers.

NOTE:  This study focused solely upon the influence of exercise on MENTAL WELLBEING, not weight loss, etc.  Please keep that in mind as you read on…

And, since I talk about the mental side of things all the time, I thought you might find this useful!

Short version:

  • All types of exercise improved people’s mental health, no matter what their age or gender. (no real surprise here)
  • People who exercised had 1.5 fewer “bad days” than non-exercisers. (If you’re anything like me, avoiding a single ‘bad day’ is worth it every time!)
  • Team sports, cycling and aerobics had the greatest positive impact. (I guess I need to add in that social angle!)
  • Among people who had been diagnosed previously with depression, exercise appeared to have a larger effect, resulting in seven days of poor mental health a month compared with nearly 11 days for those who did no exercise. (I liked this one for any readers who fall into this category…this is a HUGE improvement!)

Here’s where we can pull out some actual workout numbers.  The study went on to look at the optimal amounts of exercise.

Check this out:

  • Being active for 30-60 minutes every other day turned out to be the ideal number.
  • The study confirmed earlier findings that we should all target 150 minutes of exercise each week.

This mean that if you are physically active 4 days per week for 30 minutes, you come in just UNDER this number…

Exercise for 4 days per week for 45 minutes and you come in just OVER this number.

I did the math for my world and came up with this:

4-5 days per week for 45 minutes on average = 180-225 minutes of exercise.  Comfortably above the recommendations….

Now it don’t feel overworked on my schedule, but – based on my lifestyle habits – I don’t see myself chopping down my training volume based on this study.

I realize many people come in well under this number.  So what’s the solution?

Personally, I would recommend FREQUENCY over DURATION!

So, I would advise someone to go for 5 days per week at 30 minutes at a time to hit that 150 minutes number on the nose.


4 days per week for between 35-45 minutes.

Lastly, the 3 days per week, for close to an hour?  Not my preferred option since the FREQUENCY per week is not here and the DURATION of the exercise is a bit too long.

Other cool facts from the study:

  • Exercising for more than 23 times a month, or exercising for longer than 90-minute sessions is associated with WORSE mental health.”

I noticed I did not exceed either of these numbers.  How about you?

Remember:  the focus of this study was mental wellbeing NOT fitness levels or weight loss.

Bear that in mind…

Very interesting none the less.