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The contestants on The Biggest Loser spend hours a day in the gym with one goal in mind—to lose the most weight. But how frequently should you exercise to drop pounds in the real world? For Michelle Bridges, a trainer on the Australian version of the show and author of Total Body Transformation, the amount of time you work out every week can unlock a key to weight-loss success that is about more than just caloric burn.
Bridge’s magic number for her weight-loss clients: six days a week, ideally for 50 to 60 minutes at a time. But while hours of exercise a week will surely help you create a calorie deficit, that’s not the only reason the trainer wants her clients to find time for a work out almost every day. “We’re setting up habits and rituals,” says Bridge. “Think about the last time you had to psych yourself up to brush your teeth,” she says. In other words, when your workout becomes just another part of your day, you’re more likely to do it without a second thought.
If the idea of almost-daily hour-long workouts sounds exhausting, Michelle assures you that it won’t feel like that. She recommends you break up your workouts into three “hard” days of exercise, such as interval training, along with two moderate days and one “passive” or light-exercise day. “You don’t have to train like an Olympian all the time, but it’s [about] building in those habits,” says Bridge. “I guarantee that someone who has the habit of training six days a week, even if they miss a couple, is going to be more consistent than someone who only trains three days a week.” Just like how regular brushing maintains your bright, healthy smile, a habitual workout routine will produce real weight-loss results.