How Much Water Should You Drink A Day?

Drinking enough water is one of those annoying health goals that all of us seem to have. Maybe it’s because we know it’s healthy to stay super hydrated, but whenever we increase our water intake we just end up peeing every five seconds. So what gives? How much water should you drink a day? And how can you tell if your daily water intake is enough? Let’s get into it.

This is how much water you should drink a day, according to experts.

You’ve probably heard you’re supposed to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. That’s almost enough to fill a 2 liter bottle—which even the most diligent water-drinkers may find daunting. But that classic advice can be a little misleading.

“Fluid requirements vary among individuals based on age, sex, activity level, and even where you live,” Jessica Fishman Levinson, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., founder of nutrition counseling company Nutritioulicious tells SELF. So, how much water you should drink a day may actually vary each day, depending on the other things you’re doing, eating, and drinking.

The Institute of Medicine actually recommends that women get 2.7 liters—that’s 11 cups—of water per day. But here’s the thing: They don’t say you need to drink 11 cups of water a day.

What counts towards your daily water intake?

All fluids count toward your daily intake, not just plain old H20. That includes all sources of water—from a basic glass of tap, to a cup of coffee, to the water content of the foods you eat (which, the IOM estimates, makes up about one-fifth of your daily fluid intake). If you listen to your body—drink when you’re thirsty, eat when you’re hungry—chances are you’re going to get what you need, or pretty close to it. So stop sweating the eight glasses a day hubbub and think about it this way instead.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the benchmark should really say “eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid,” not water, because drinking things like milk, tea, and juice contribute to your total. “Good options for hydration without added calories are waters infused with fruit and herbs, unsweetened tea, and sparkling water,” Levinson says.

Your diet can affect your daily water intake, too.

“Your body absorbs water in foods just like it would liquids,” Levinson says. Many fruits and vegetables have high water content. Some good options: watermelon (duh), cucumbers, lettuce, celery, tomatoes,strawberries, oranges, and grapefruit. Even soup, Jell-O, and ice pops count as fluid.

But some foods and drinks can increase how much water you need. “Foods with a diuretic effect, such as alcohol and asparagus, may cause you to excrete more water so you may need more,” Levinson says. If you eat high-sodium foods, your body likely will retain more water, leaving you thirstier. Drinking more fluids will help dilute your system and get fluids moving regularly again.

So, how can you tell if your water consumption is good enough?

Since you’re not always keeping track of these sneaky sources of fluids, the best way to gauge your daily water intake is by how your body feels.

If you’re thirsty, your body’s telling you that you need more water. “You might already be dehydrated,” Levinson says. Another good way to determine your fluid status is by taking a peek inside the toilet after you pee. “If your urine is light yellow, you’re probably getting enough fluids. If it’s dark or smells strongly, you probably need more water.”

It’s also important to make a conscious effort to drink more whenever you’re getting sweaty. Along with food, water is the fuel that powers your workouts. As you sweat, you’re literally losing water, and you have to replenish it as you go. Aim to drink one or two cups of water before you exercise, and sip about a half to one cup of water every 15 minutes while you’re working out. If you’re sweating really hard, or if you’re out in the heat, you might need more—listen to your body.

You don’t need to obsess about hitting a particular number of cups/liters/gallons/bottles of water each day, but it can be helpful to get in the habit of drinking more regularly throughout the day. To make sure you’re hydrated, keep a refillable water bottle with you all day so you can constantly sip whenever you want. For more tips, check out these 12 easy ways to drink more water every day.

Here are some subtle signs of dehydration that may mean you need to increase your daily water intake:

Some of the signs of dehydration are fairly obvious—but others aren’t. If you’re thirsty, you should drink. That’s a no-brainer. But there are a few other signs of dehydration that aren’t as obvious.

  • You’re feeling hungrier than usual. Thirst and hunger cues come from the same part of the brain, so it’s easy to confuse the two. If you feel hungry even when you know you’ve eaten enough, there’s a good chance your body’s actually telling you it needs water, not food.
  • You’re feeling super dry. When your body is begging for hydration, the need can manifest in various signs of dryness, including dry mouth, chapped lips, dry skin, and a lack of tears.
  • You have a headache. Doctors aren’t quite sure why, but they think it might be because when hydration levels drop, so does blood volume, which can reduce oxygen supply to the brain.
  • Your muscles feel weak or crampy. Cramping, muscle spasms, and generally feeling weak or fatigued can all be indications of dehydration.
  • Your breath is randomly stinky. Having bad breath can be a tip-off that you need to sip some water. That goes with the dry mouth thing: Saliva has bacteria-fighting properties; when your saliva levels go down so does your mouth’s ability to fight odor-causing germs.

In addition to all that, rapid heartbeat or breathing, sunken eyes, fever, confusion, or delirium can all be signs of severe dehydration. If you have these symptoms, seek medical attention.

We know you’re wondering: Can drinking more water help you lose weight?

While drinking more water won’t actually cause you to lose weight, there is usually a relationship between how much water you drink a day and how much you’re eating each day. That’s because hunger can actually be a sign of thirst.

As we mentioned, thirst and hunger cues are easy to confuse, so if you’re feeling famished even though you know you aren’t, it might be that your body really needs some water. So, in this case, if you’re not drinking enough water, you may be more likely to mindlessly snack throughout the day. While drinking more water shouldn’t be seen as the secret to weight loss, it certainly can’t hurt to increase your daily water intake.

By the way, it is possible to overhydrate, especially during endurance activities, like running a marathon.

Marc Leavey, M.D., an internist at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center, previously told SELF: “There are a scattering of cases [of overhydration] seen among athletes, runners, and those exercising and trying to consume extra water.” Overhydration can cause a condition known as hyponatremia, which happens when the sodium levels in your bloodstream become unusually low, leading to your cells becoming waterlogged. Signs include feeling nauseated, confused, run-down, and irritable. Overhydration can also cause seizures and put you into a coma if it’s not caught in time.

You might also like: How Much Water Should You Drink Every Day?

This Is What Happens When You Don’t Eat After Working Out

If you’re a regular exerciser, it’s important to understand what happens when you don’t eat enough after you work out. Most dietitians recommend eating something within 30 minutes after a workout. Your body, after using up its available energy, needs to be refueled, specifically with carbs and protein, for energy and to repair the microdamage that exercise does to your muscles.

We’re all busy, though. And sometimes, fitting in a workout means squeezing it into a quick 30-minute window and then rushing off to the next obligation. If you don’t have a protein bar or other handy snack packed, getting those nutrients in may not actually happen. But if skipping a post-workout nosh becomes a habit, you risk compromising your fitness goals, and also just feeling crummy. Here’s what happens when you don’t eat enough after you exercise and why you should not be skipping meals, especially on days you work out.

Skipping post-workout refueling can leave you feeling tired and foggy, and can get in the way of recovery.

“Some people will just feel fatigue, and some people can get disoriented from low blood sugar,” Jennifer Beck, M.D., sports medicine specialist and pediatric orthopedist at UCLA, tells SELF. She also notes that ignoring post-workout steps that are essential for recovery, like proper nutrition, can contribute to overuse injuries. “We think a lot of overuse injuries happen when people are not replacing essential building blocks as readily as they should,” Beck says. This can especially become a problem if you’re doing heavy muscle-building activities and neglecting what your body needs to repair microtears and damage. Fixing those tears is how your body builds muscle; failing to do so puts your muscles at risk of further damage next time you work out.

Go for snacks or meals that have both carbs and protein.

Sweet potatoes with Greek yogurt, toast with almond butter, and veggie omelets are all great for post-workout snacks (and work for fueling up pre-workout, too!) This roundup is a great place to start. A piece of fruit or crackers for carbs with Greek yogurt, turkey, or nut butter for protein are all great ideas, too (and you find more here).

After particularly sweaty or long workouts, you might need to replenish electrolytes, too.

Food also contains electrolytes, minerals our bodies need to keep the muscles and nerves firing correctly. “If you had a very sweaty workout, replacing calcium, salt, and potassium, all part of standard food consumption, is also very important,” says Beck. If you tend to get super sweaty, or you’re working out on a hot day or going for a long training run, you’ll lose some of these things in your sweat. If you’re not able to immediately replace them, it can make you feel terrible and can even be dangerous. Dehydration and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can both set in quickly and make you feel disoriented or even pass out. In rare cases, lack of electrolytes can throw off the electrical impulses that keep the heart beating properly, leading to cardiac arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat.

Never overlook good ol’ fashioned hydration.

If you’re going to remember one thing, though, make it water. “Water is the most important building block you need after a workout,” Beck says. And during, for that matter. While extra long or hard workouts will require replenishing those electrolytes, recovering from just about any kind of workout goes way better if you’ve been staying hydrated.

Skipping a post-workout meal every once in a while isn’t a huge deal, but try not to make it a habit, especially after intense workouts. “You want to set yourself up for good patterns,” Beck says, because developing healthy habits is the easiest way to prevent burnout and injury. Exercise should be fun and bring you positive health benefits, not end in muscle tears or stress fractures. “Both hydration and nutrition are important parts of having healthy exercise habits.”

26 Whole30 Slow-Cooker Dinner Ideas and Recipes

If you’ve decided to try out Whole30—a restrictive 30-day diet that eliminates all dairy, grains, soy, legumes, added sugars, and processed foods, and instead focuses on meat, fish, fruits, and veggies—then you’re probably in desperate need of recipes. Thanks to an enormous amount of online support, there’s no shortage of yummy ideas that comply with the rules.

The only catch is that in an effort to creatively work within the Whole30-limitations, many of these dishes tend to be a little complicated or overly involved. That’s fine when you have time, but not so much when you’re hungry after work and need food ASAP to keep from going into full hangry Hulk-mode.

Instead of trying to pull something together when you’re tired from a long day and don’t have the brain power, make one of these slow-cooker dinner recipes that’s compliant with Whole30. Since these ideas were formed with Whole30 restrictions in mind, most of them are pretty meat-heavy, which means that you should expect a lot of tender fall-off-the-bone fare.

Get these Whole30 Crock-Pot recipes ready to go either ahead of time by turning them into frozen meal packs (which you can find out how to do here), or before you leave for work in the morning. When you get home, a dinner you can actually eat will be waiting for you.

51 Healthy Slow-Cooker Recipes That Will Rock Your Crock-Pot

If you can’t afford a live-in chef—you’re a kween, yes, but not an actual queen—a slow-cooker is your next best option. Sure, healthy slow-cooker recipes involve a teensy bit of prep, but aside from a bit of searing and seasoning, they do most of the cooking themselves. All you really have to do is dump your ingredients in your slow cooker before you hit the road, and let it all simmer for six to eight hours. You’re free to run some errands, catch a movie, or go to work. When you get home dinner will be ready and waiting for you. What’s more regal than that?

30 Healthy Snacks for Work That You Can Keep at Your Desk

Applesauce

Applesauce is often sold in shelf-stable packets or cups like the one pictured above, which means it’s a great snack to keep at your desk. Full of fiber and healthy carbs, it’ll definitely keep you satiated, but if you want it to be even more filling consider combining it with some dried nuts you might also have at your desk.

A small plastic container filled with organic cinnamon applesauce and a spoon inserted into the food on a white tablecloth.

7 Apple Cider Vinegar Facts To Know Before You Drink It

Even though it’s easy to find programs and products that claim to make weight loss quick and easy, according the research, as well as expert advice, not only do most weight loss diets fail, losing weight and keeping it off typically requires a fair amount of effort and commitment to the long game. It’s no surprise, then, that supplements like apple cider vinegar (ACV), which some people turn to because of its reputation as a weight loss aide, “detoxifier,” and general health booster, abound.

But does drinking ACV really promote weight loss, or deliver on any of the other popular rumors swirling around it? Here, experts get to the bottom of the debate around apple cider vinegar and weight loss and health.

1. It doesn’t actually cause weight loss.

“There are many mostly unfounded claims about apple cider vinegar,” Scott Kahan, M.D., director of National Center for Weight and Wellness, tells SELF. As a doctor specializing in obesity management as well as a researcher in obesity treatments, a lot of patients ask Dr. Kahan how apple cider vinegar may affect their weight. Simply put, there’s no rigorous science to back up the claim that apple cider vinegar kicks off a metabolic process that results in weight loss.

“Like with most supplements, people make a lot of claims based on absent or extremely poor data,” says Dr. Kahan. “Virtually no [scientific literature] comes up for this, and what does is usually tiny, not well-done studies in obscure journals.” Because of that, he says they’re “basically meaningless” when it comes to supporting claims of apple cider vinegar’s weight loss benefits. In fact, one study that shows that study subjects who lost weight following a protocol that involved consuming two tablespoons of ACV per day were also eating 250 calories less than usual.

Another expert agrees. “Apple cider vinegar doesn’t have any physiological properties that speed up your metabolism or melt fat,” Abby Langer, R.D., tells SELF.

2. It’s value as a probiotic is questionable.

Nowadays “gut health” is all the rage and, subsequently, so are probiotics. But what do they actually do? It helps to first understand just what a probiotic is. Author of The Bloated Belly Whisperer Tamara Duker Freuman, R.D., explains that a probiotic is a specific species and strain of a microorganism, usually bacteria, that has been demonstrated through research to benefit human health. They occur naturally in products like yogurt and kefir and they can also be bought in supplement form. But unless a specific microorganism has been shown to do something health-promoting, there’s really no way to know if it’s doing much of anything, says Duker Freuman. “There’s minimal evidence to suggest that the average person would benefit from taking probiotics,” Duker Freuman says. Apple cider vinegar would fall into this category of bacteria-containing foods that probably won’t do much for otherwise healthy people. The research that has shown probiotics to be promising for health typically are looking at a specific bacteria and a population with a specific condition, explains Duker Freuman, like studies of how a certain bacteria affects ulcerative colitis patients and others about how specific probiotic mixtures have been found to help patients with the gut infection Clostridium difficile, or C. diff.

Duker Freuman’s bottom line about ACV is that it probably isn’t harmful and it’s also unlikely to promote gut health. The only people she says should steer clear of it entirely is anyone with acid reflux or acid damage to their esophagus from acid reflux.

3. Apple cider vinegar doesn’t “detoxify” you.

“I’ve heard a lot about how apple cider vinegar ‘detoxifies’ you,” says Langer, who explains that it’s simply not true. In fact, the body is basically built to “cleanse” itself. Your body does a clutch job of detoxing all on its own—that’s precisely what your liver, kidneys, and intestines are for. They work together to eliminate toxins and waste from your body in the form of urine and feces, while also helping your body absorb the beneficial nutrients from whatever you eat. “Despite what you may read, there’s nothing magical about apple cider vinegar,” says Langer.

4. It should not be used as an appetite suppressant.

While some research has proposed that the acetic acid in ACV may suppress the appetite and other research has shown acetic acid consumption to suppress body fat accumulation in mice, we so far lack any strong evidence that ACV is an effective appetite suppressant.

But perhaps more important than the fact that ACV hasn’t been reliably shown to suppress appetite is the fact that cutting calories and undereating are not winning strategies for weight loss and are likely to leave you feeling hungry and deprived. Not to mention that restricting what you’re eating can set you up for a restrict-binge-restrict cycle as well as hamper your ability to think intuitively about food and eating. To suppress your appetite when you feel hungry is deny your body the nourishment it’s asking for. “It’s unhealthy psychologically,” Langer says.

“If you feel hunger at a time that’s unexpected, like between meals, an appetite suppressant isn’t the answer. The answer is to take a look at what you’re eating over all to see if it’s adequate in calories or volume, and also macronutrient-wise,” says Langer.

5. There’s a chance it could modestly lower blood glucose levels, but we don’t have solid evidence for that.

One 2013 study in Journal of Functional Foods suggests as much, noting that participants who ingested apple cider vinegar each day for 12 weeks had lower blood sugar. The issue is that the study was only conducted on 14 people, and they were all already predisposed to type 2 diabetes.

“Because studies are typically done on certain subsets of people, you can usually only make very specific conclusions based on the population that’s actually studied,” says Dr. Kahan. In other words, studies are a great way to learn about various subpopulations, but unless the research is large-scale and designed to apply to many groups, it doesn’t automatically tell you about the general population.

That’s not to say apple cider vinegar can’t help lower blood glucose levels, at least in the group studied. “It may have some effect in terms of decreasing the increase in blood sugar that happens after eating a carbohydrate in people who are prone to high blood sugar,” says Dr. Kahan, although the mechanism behind this isn’t totally clear. “Vinegar is an acid that changes the pH of food, which can affect how quickly something is metabolized and absorbed,” he says. “It could also affect the enzymes that are responsible for metabolizing and absorbing the nutrients of different foods.”

Until something has been rigorously studied, trusted experts refrain from developing any clinical guidelines about its use for health. In short, no one should be taking their health advice from the results of one very small study.

6. You shouldn’t drink too much of it.

Even though the vast health claims are dubious, that doesn’t automatically mean you can’t drink apple cider vinegar. “Lack of scientific evidence doesn’t mean that it’s dangerous or won’t make you feel healthier,” says Langer. If you’re going to incorporate it into your diet, it’s all about how you do it.

Langer recommends never going over two tablespoons a day, and Dr. Kahan agrees that overdoing it could have negative health effects. Beyond exacerbating the stomach irritation issue, too much acidity can wear away at your tooth enamel and even harm your esophagus, he says. He also suggests eating before you drink anything with apple cider vinegar mixed in so that stomach irritation is less likely.

“Vinegar is a strong acid,” he says. “Like with a lot of other ‘magic’ pills, potions, and foods, you want to be careful about having too much.”

7. It hasn’t been proven to control high blood pressure.

Just because acetic acid was shown to reduce blood pressure in rats, it doesn’t mean it will have similar effects on humans. Again, until this is studied more rigorously and thoroughly, there’s not enough evidence to show that consuming ACV will lower blood pressure.

8. It can cause nausea in some people.

While drinking ACV diluted in water can be “health neutral” for lots of people, it can make others nauseated, says Duker Freuman. If you have a sensitive stomach or other gastrointestinal woes, ACV might not be for you. In fact, going back to the idea that ACV could be an appetite suppressant, a 2014 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that feelings of suppressed appetite after ingesting ACV were due to the nausea subjects felt after ingesting it.

9. ACV doesn’t interact well with certain medications.

You should definitely talk to a doctor if you take insulin or diuretics and are interested in drinking ACV.

10. There hasn’t been enough good research on ACV to determine whether it has other health-related uses.

Although it’s touted as a supplement for acne, hiccups, allergies, and more, as a 2017 article noted, in Natural Product Research notes, “more in vitro and in vivo validations are necessary in order to precisely weigh the pros and cons of ACV.” Reshmi Srinath, M.D., assistant professor in the Mt. Sinai division of endocrinology, diabetes, and bone disease, and director of the Mount Sinai Weight and Metabolism Management Program, tells SELF that while there have been small, non-controlled studies suggesting that apple cider vinegar may be beneficial in some ways, “there’s not enough clinical data to support its use to the general public.”

15 Lower Ab Exercises for Women That Will Set Your Core on Fire | SELF

There are endless ways to work your abs, but lower abs workouts and exercises are usually the hardest to come by. The upper abs and obliques tend to get all the love from many popular exercises, while the lower abs are notoriously harder to target.

For the record, we technically don’t have separate “upper abs” and “lower abs.” When people refer to either, they’re actually talking about just different areas of the rectus abdominis, the muscle that runs vertically from your sternum to your pelvis on each side of your abdomen. It’s what you think of when you picture six-pack abs. But it is possible to primarily activate one part of the rectus abdominis—say, the lower part—while the upper section mostly chills out. The movement you’re doing will determine which portion of the muscle (and the rest of your core, for that matter) are involved and whether you’re getting more of a lower abs workout or upper abs workout.

It’s important to work all of your core muscles, including targeting the lower section of the rectus abdominis. If one portion of your core is weak, this can cause other areas to become overactive as they try take on more of the work, Jason Loebig, an NASM-certified personal trainer and the founder of Live Better, tells SELF. Your hips and lower back are particularly vulnerable to taking over, and ultimately becoming strained, especially if you spend a good part of your sitting down.

“As a result of sitting with poor posture for lengthy periods of time, the hip flexors and lower back may suffer,” says Loebig. “A strong core, specifically the ability to maintain a small amount of tension in the abs while sitting, helps to relieve tight hips and lower back pain by keeping the spine and pelvis in the correct posture position,” he says. So, even if you’ve got strong upper abs and obliques, strengthening your lower abs is important for making sure your core is putting in all the work it should.

To get familiar with where your lower abs are and how to engage them (along with the rest of your core, Loebig recommends a simple breathing exercise. “Start lying down on your back and take some deep breaths through the belly. If you put your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your belly, your left hand should be rising and falling. Each time you exhale, you want to engage your abs like you’re going to take a punch to the gut.”

This starts to warm up your core, so you can bring on the real work, no matter what type of abs exercises you’re doing. Here are some of the best lower abs exercises to get your whole core working more efficiently. Add a couple into your regular workout, or string four to five together to create your own custom lower abs workout.

Demoing the move below are Cookie Janee, a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies; and Crystal Williams, a group fitness instructor and trainer who teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City.

How Often Should You Work Out? The Perfect Weekly Workout Routine

We all go into workouts with our own set of goals and expectations, and most of us have wondered how often you should work out. Maybe you run for the mental health benefits. Maybe you lift for the gainz. Maybe you love the serenity of yoga and the aggression of boxing. It’s great to hone in on your “why” to motivate you to get up, lace up your sneaks, and get to sweating. But what about the “how”? How often should you work out? And what should you do each time? For how long? Going in with a game plan is crucial. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “how many days a week should I work out?,” you’re probably ready for some answers.

That’s why we tapped Noam Tamir, CSCS, founder of TS Fitness, to help lay it all out for you.

How often should you work out each week?

As you can imagine, there’s no simple formula that’s right for everyone. So if you’re wondering, “how many days a week should I work out?,” that answer might be totally different than, say, your BFF or your coworker. (Come on, you didn’t really think the answer would be that easy, did you?) If you’re looking to amp up your fitness level, your magic number of days depends on how active you already are. For example, you’ll probably see results from one day a week if you don’t already work out at all, Tamir says. But if you’re used to multiple workout days a week, one day probably won’t challenge your body enough to stay at peak form or make progress.

The breakdown varies depending on your specific goals, but in general, four to five days a week will do the trick if you’re aiming to improve your fitness and stay in shape.

What should each day of working out look like?

If you want to work out five days per week and are working on both strength and cardiovascular fitness, try three days of strength training, two days of cardio, and two days of active rest. If you only want to work out four days a week, think about your goals: If you want to add muscle, cut a cardio day. If you want to improve endurance, skip a strength day. Or, switch it each week, says Tamir.

Remember, it’s important to be realistic about your own schedule when you’re asking yourself, “how many times a week should I work out?” If four days makes more sense for you than five days, do that. But if five days is reasonable, great!

Either way, here’s how (and when, and why) to crush it at each one.

Strength Training: 2–3 Times per Week

Corey Towers

Why: “The more muscle you have the higher your metabolic rate. It also strengthens joints and bones,” he adds.

How: To build muscle mass, you should try to work each muscle group two to three times a week, says Tamir. So in a two- to three-day strength plan, this means you should aim to do full-body workouts—you’ll want to hit the major muscle groups of your upper and lower body, including your glutes, quads, hamstrings, chest, shoulders, back, arms, and core. That might sound like a lot, but that’s where compound exercises come in. Moves like squats, lunges, and bicep curls-to-overhead presses work more than one muscle group at a time, so you get more bang for your buck. Compound exercises also work your core, so while you can throw in some abs work at the end of a sweat session, you’ll also be working your core with every squat (which also works your glutes, hammies, and quads).

You also want to have a balance between pushing and pulling movements. So, for example, a pushing movement would be a chest press, and a pulling movement would be a row. You should do different moves in each of the three strength sessions, but repeat those same moves every week.

“I would stay with a program for four to six weeks and progressively increase the weight,” says Tamir. “[The week before your last week], I would have a little bit of a drop-off, to give your body a little bit of a recovery, and the last week really push it hard.” Don’t feel like you have to go hard on the machines: strength training can also incorporate bodyweight moves (like squats), dumbbells, kettlebells, TRX suspension trainers, and more.

There are also strength training classes available at many gyms and studios: Think TRX classes, CrossFit, and bootcamp-style sessions (like Barry’s Bootcamp or Orangetheory, which also incorporate cardio). Challenging barre and reformer Pilates classes can also work your muscles like you wouldn’t believe—while these kinds of classes range in intensity (and some are more restorative than others), chances are, there are some in your area that’ll seriously put those muscles to the test.

Related: 6 Essential Weight Lifting Moves for Beginners

How Long: A strength-training session should last 45 to 60 minutes, plus foam rolling and at least a quick warm-up beforehand.

Bonus Tip: Strength training is also where you can improve other elements of your fitness. “Flexibility work can be incorporated in the warm-up and during the exercises to make sure you are completing the full range of the movement,” says Tamir. You can work on coordination during the warm-up with nonlinear movements and patterns like crawling. You can also improve balance (and engage your core!) by doing single-leg exercises.

Cardio: 2–3 Times per Week

Sumetee Theesungnern / EyeEm

Why: As important as it is to strength train, cardio has its place in a balanced workout routine too. “Doing cardio keeps your circulatory system working optimally helping you to recover faster…[and it] keeps your endurance up,” says Tamir. “It also increases your VO2 max, which helps your body utilize oxygen.” Check, check, and check.

How: You’ve got a ton of options: an outdoor jog, the good old elliptical machine, the list goes on. “Whether something is cardiovascular depends on where your heart rate is at and how long you’re doing it for,” says Tamir. Target heart rates are different for everyone, but Tamir suggests that a good baseline to aim for during your cardio routines is between 120 and 150 beats per minute for 45 to 60 minutes. (Learn more about target heart rates here.) “I’m a big fan of doing functional movements to keep my heart rate up,” says Tamir. For example, consider kettlebell swings. Often incorporated in strength training, they have their place in a cardio workout too—the key is trying to do more reps within a certain time span to keep that heart rate elevated. And you can improve your agility, while getting in some cardio, with moves used by ice skaters (or by adding an agility ladder).

There are also plenty of cardio classes out there you can drop in on (many of which will work your muscles a bit, too). Heart-pumping examples include indoor cycling, kickboxing, HIIT classes, dance cardio, treadmill classes, rowing classes, and more.

How Long: The American College of Sports Medicine recommends logging 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense activity per week. How you split that up will depend on what type of training you’re doing (longer, steady-state sessions vs. shorter HIIT workouts).

Bonus Tip: Another option is interval training, which “helps you burn more calories in the same time as steady state,” says Tamir. He likes doing 20 seconds of hard work followed by 40 seconds of active recovery for 45 to 60 minutes. The best part? You can do this with pretty much anything—indoor row machine, bike, treadmill, functional movements, you name it.

Related: 20-Minute Cardio Workout for People Who Hate Running

Rest Days: 2 Times per Week

artursfoto

Why: Taking a break lets your body recover and rebuild so you can get back to your workouts refreshed and ready to rock it. A rest day should actually be considered active recovery, meaning you don’t have to hit the gym or break a serious sweat, but you should do something. “It’s not just about the physical recovery—it’s also the mental,” says Tamir. “Doing something that you enjoy that’s active is great for the mind…and it assists in residual fatigue.” Plus, it keeps up your conditioning.

How: Whether you do some stretching or just take a walk, active recovery shouldn’t require a ton of effort like a workout day, but it should get you moving. You can also try a restorative class, like gentle yoga or a relaxed mat Pilates class.

How Long: Aim for 30–60 minutes.

Bonus Tip: Where you place these rest days is up to you—if you do your workouts Monday through Friday, feel free to take the whole weekend off, says Tamir. Or, you could break them up by doing a strength day, a cardio day, then a rest day before getting back to weight training. Although the order doesn’t really matter, Tamir recommends not working on strength two days in a row. “You want to give your body 48 hours to recover,” he says.

Of course, your perfect gym week may vary slightly based on your goals and your schedule, but it’s all about having good fitness habits.

“If you want results, you need to have a routine that you can stick with,” says Tamir. “I’ve seen so many people try to fit workouts in inconsistently, and it ends up being a waste of time.” So, while it’s great to have a baseline answer to the question, “how often should you work out?,” the most important thing is that it works for you. No matter what you do and when you do it, the goal should be to rock it, rest, repeat.