The amount of time you spend participating in one session of physical activity is your "exercise duration." Your fitness level and goals determine how you figure what your exercise duration should be for each workout. The intensity at which you work out also factors into duration.
Exercise duration is often used as part of prescriptive exercise programs such as race training plans. Beginning exercisers may start with a short exercise duration of 10 to 20 minutes, and as they become more fit, they may extend the duration of each session. The advantage of an extended duration is that you burn more calories and build greater stamina.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise each week as well as 20 to 30 minutes of resistance-training two times weekly. Any session lasting 10 minutes or longer counts toward your weekly physical activity goals for good health. Longer sessions afford even more fitness and health benefits by building your stamina and heart health.
The intensity of your workout may also determine the duration of an exercise session. Most people can maintain a brisk walk for a longer time than they can an all-out running pace, for example. The CDC notes that one minute of intense, or vigorous, activity equals about two minutes of more moderate activity.
If you have aspirations to run a marathon or participate in a century bike ride, you'll have to endure long exercise sessions during training. These long exercise duration sessions prepare you for these extreme events, but are not necessary if your goals are simply to stay healthy and fit. If you wish to lose weight, you may also need to undergo longer duration exercise sessions. Harvard School of Public Health reports that to maintain weight loss, you may need to commit to at least an hour a day of exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine says that significant weight loss comes with 250 minutes or more of exercise weekly.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.