The answer is: it depends. It depends on the time you have and what you want to achieve.
The ACSM (American College of Sport and Medicine) recommends that, to keep healthy, adults should do moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week, ideally 30 minutes 5 times a week. This would help maintain good heart and lung functions, lower cholesterol, prevent obesity, keep joints lubricated and has many more benefits.
But every individual is different, we have busy schedules, some times we don’t have time and some others we have time to spare. So the first thing is to analyse a typical week and decide what are the times we can dedicate to exercise.
Days can vary from 1 to 6 a week, I personally suggest to take at least 1 day rest during the week to both recharge the body and dedicate some time to the soul 🙂
There are many combinations of exercises that can be adopted when working several days a week. What you do also depends on the goals you have and the things you like. Below are some examples.
Working 1 or 2 days a week.
In this case I would suggest to take a full body approach on each day, and this is because, if you work only on couple of muscles, it will take many sessions before you can work those muscles again and progress would be very slow (although remember: something is always, always, always better than nothing).
If you are not into gyms, you could chose different activities, for example you could walk one day and cycle another, or swim one day and run another. You could combine these activities with exercises at home using just your body weight or maybe some resistance bands, working legs, arms, back, chest and the abdominal area.
Working 3 days a week
If you want to loose some weight, you could still use the 3 days to do some cardio activities like running, swimming, walking, cycling etc. However, it would be beneficial to also start adding some resistance training because working on your muscles not only will give more harmony to the body, but will also help to raise metabolism and burn more calories.
Day 1: Running Day 2: Full body resistance training Day 3: Cycling
Day 1: Full body resistance training Day 2: Swimming Day 3: Full body resistance training
Day 1: Cycling Day 2: Full body resistance training Day 3: Running and core work
If you don’t need to loose weight but you want to tone or build muscles, you could adopt a split approach:
Day 1: working chest, triceps and deltoid
Day 2: working back, shoulders and biceps
Day 3: working legs and core
Working 4 days a week
You could maintain the same split used in the example above and add 1 day for cardio activity
Or you could work the same muscles twice a week by combining more exercises in one session, for example:
Day 1 and 3: Chest, back and arms
Day 2 and 4: Legs and core
Working 5 days a week
You could do 3 days of resistance training and 2 of cardio or 2 of resistance training and 3 of cardio.
When you decide to work more than 3 days per week, try to space the days, make sure that you never work the same muscle group two days in a row but leave at least 48 hours so that the muscle can rest and recover.
As you can see from the examples above, the combinations you can have are endless but each would suit a different goal. Make sure you have clear in mind what it is that you want to achieve and chose a program carefully so that you can target your goals and not end up with something you don’t want or you are not able to sustain in the long run.