How long should I spend at the gym

How long should you spend at the gym?

Amon Fearon - February 01, 2023

 Hitting the gym has plenty of benefits and remains a popular fitness choice for beginners and athletes alike. Whether the gyms are inbuilt at home or a reason to get out of the house, they offer the chance to work on building up our physical and mental health. But, how long you should spend in the gym; is there really a measure? You might think more time in the gym the better but the answer is not so straight forward. There’s much to consider before asking this question, such as why am I going to the gym? What do I aim to achieve? What is my current ability? Addressing these questions will, for sure, help decide just how long you should spend in the gym. Goals need to be made to become a better athlete; planning is key.

The time of a gym session would depend on the type of gym session and the level of exercise of the individual. Level of exercise is different for everyone. A brisk walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes is moderate for some and moderate for others could be flat out running for 40 minutes, it really does vary. This also depends on if you are a regular for fitness training or just starting out. After assessing what your fitness level is, you need to be asking yourself what the overall aim is. Are you looking to gain strength, lose weight, increase endurance and stamina, or maintain the physique.

Let’s break this down!

We’re going to look at -

  • How long should a gym session be
  • How long should I spend at the gym:
  • To lose weight
  • To build muscle
  • To improve endurance
  • How long should I spend at the gym fitness level:
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • How long is too long in the gym & the dangers of training


How long should a gym session be?

We can break down gym sessions into three main areas of work. There is general strength training, aerobics sessions and then High Intensity Interval Training sessions (HIIT).

General strength training usually involves the use of weights and gym equipment. Having a plan is crucial here, turning up to use machines and weights as and when in a non-structured way is inefficient. You can often generate more gains from a shorter, high intensity sessions when your routine is engineered to perform. Intensity and effectiveness are more important than time. Gym instructors/personal trainers would be key for tailoring your goals and utilising the best equipment and exercises safely. The length of a general strength training session, depending on your level of fitness, should start at 30-60 min sessions.

Aerobic fitness is physical activity and aims to increase the heart rate. This includes running, walking, cycling to name a few. A reasonable timeframe to aim for during aerobic fitness is between 40 – 60 minutes - again depending on fitness level. However, you will also need to monitor the intensity throughout the class – is it high impact? Is it high demanding? Time of session will need to be adjusted accordingly. Going beyond 40 – 60 minutes can have a negative impact on the training as it can increase stress levels within the body as well as have an adverse effect on the muscle building component of the training session, thus have an adverse effect on the overall aim of the exercise. Stick to your level of fitness and listen to your body.

HIIT is a training method that is renowned for its ability to create change and impact in a shorter period. 10 minutes of HIIT is advised due to its nature. It is generally accepted with HIIT training that less is more. It is strenuous and intense and although it may be appealing to double up on the advised time for quicker results, this could create poor side effects including loss of sleep, low mood, and reduced performance. There would be few quicker ways to diminish progress and motivation than to overexert your body on HIIT - in the long run this would not be beneficial or safe. HIIT is intended to give an intense work out in a shorter space of time but the impact this has on the body means a longer recovery period will be necessary. The body will need sufficient rest and this time needs to be catered for and scheduled in the fitness plan.

Note, these advisory timings are generalised, not only is your fitness level important to consider but so are your fitness goals. Keep pushing yourself harder but work your way up.


How long should I spend at the gym?

You may be hitting the gym with a particular fitness goal in mind and not just for the general ‘keep fit, keep active’ mindset. How long you should spend in the gym would vary more amongst the different targets you set yourself. We will investigate this more closely.

To lose weight

If losing weight is the plan, then you need to have a structure to do this. Losing weight is a fine balance between calorie intake and calories burned. Maintaining a healthy balanced diet not only for controlled calorie intake but for high energy storage is also key. You cannot run a car on empty or with the wrong fuel. The mindset also plays a crucial role here. You’re at risk of losing motivation if the goals you have set are unrealistic. Small steps to big change are the way forward. If you are new to exercise, starting with 30 minutes activity a day is what is generally recommended for a healthy lifestyle, regardless of the intention to lose weight. To confirm, activity can include a simple brisk walk! Once your fitness level is accepting and improving with this set time, you can then progress and move your daily fitness activity to 45 – 60 minutes, leading to more calories burned and increased chance of weight loss.

To build muscle

There is a common misconception that building muscle requires endless training. If you are a pro athlete or body builder then of course, the levels of training will highly digress from what would be needed for standard muscle building. For the purposes of this blog, we will look at general muscle building. To build muscle mass your body relies on reserves of limited substances – creatine phosphate and glycogen. Replenishing these stores through diet and rest is essential to push for muscle building results. Weight training sessions, ideally, should last no more than 90 minutes when you consider rest time between sets. Any longer than this then you may be at risk of weakening the muscle and joints, which could result in injury. 30 minutes of productivity is sufficient. Realistically, with 30-90 second breaks depending on exercise demands, you should be able to get a good workout in 60 minutes.

Improve endurance

Endurance training can have a varied approach to aid improvement. Not just the amount of time per session but what activity takes place will make a difference too. Endurance training includes running, cycling, swimming etc. and many athletes choose a variety to incorporate into their training to improve their endurance and cardiovascular health. Making sure warmups are taking place and assessing your level of fitness is important before moving forward. Endurance training needs a starting point followed by a gradual increase in difficulty and length of time to gain improvement. 30 minutes for a few (2-3) sessions a week would be a good place to start but checking in with your body after each session to monitor heart rate is important to keep safe. Subtract your age from 220 and keep this number in mind. Any faster and it’s dangerous as your heart rate is getting too high. Consistency is also key. Resting well and refuelling your body correctly is also imperative to avoid injury and support yourself.


How long should I spend at the gym for fitness level:


With your level of fitness taken into consideration and what activity you are looking to partake in, it is advised that beginners start with 30 minutes training a few times a week with good strong warmups and correct cooling down procedure. If you decide to move into cardio, be sure to start with a brisk walk of 10-15 minutes to get the heart going and prepare your body before speeding up. Be mindful of the stress on your body and do not push beyond your limit so you can avoid injury. Be sure to take breaks as you need them and stretch during these breaks.


If you have been working out for some time and confident in your regime, getting results and seeing change, then it may be time for you to move up and challenge yourself more. Keep in mind that moving from 30 minutes per work out session to 45 minutes is a big leap for your body so be sure to do this gradually and consciously. Increase difficulty or length of time and do not overexert yourself. Adding a couple more minutes to your 30-minute workout each week is a great way to start increasing that fitness level.


If you are an advanced trainer, it may be easy for you to consider hitting the gym for a prolonged period and pushing beyond all measurable limits – however – even with advanced level fitness, training sessions you should consider keeping your sessions to 60 minutes in the gym to avoid injury from overtraining. This is advised for cardio and if you are weightlifting then the sets need to have rest points considered within this 60-minute limit.


How long is too long in the gym & the dangers of over training

Throughout the blog, ‘over exertion’, ‘listening to your body’, ‘level of fitness’ and ‘safety’ have all been mentioned when advising how long someone should be training at the gym. Training past your level of fitness and limits is dangerous. It can cause harm, and it is why it is imperative to plan and amend as necessary while you train in the gym. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that the longer you spend in the gym, the better the training will be and the quicker the results will come. This really is not the case.

Overtraining can lead to injury. This overall will throw the training plan out of the window entirely until full recovery has been made and will lead to setting back goals that have been created for the future. Overtraining can also have negative impacts on your mental health including fatigue, moodiness, and irritability. This is not the mindset to have at the gym or in life in general so being patient is highly recommended.

Training every day is also not advised. Having 48 hours between training sessions with light cardio work in between is a great way to keep your body moving but allowing it to recover from an intense work out also. However, weightlifting 5 days a week is sometimes necessary as there are several core muscle groups you may wish to target in isolation.

Overall, being consistent and being conscious is key for results. Enjoying the gym and establishing discipline makes the biggest difference to your work outs and your mind set.