Choose a workout schedule you can stick with long-term.
Once you set your sight on a fitness goal, such as firming your abdomen or losing 20 pounds, you want to reach that goal as quickly as possible. However, following the same workout routine every day isn't an efficient -- or healthy -- approach to building a specific set of muscles or losing weight. Instead, think in terms of a total body workout, alternating strength training with aerobic exercise and making daily physical activity a part of your life.
Too Much, Too Soon
Just as a crash diet is unlikely to lead to long-term weight loss or healthy weight maintenance, a commitment to work out rigorously every day carries a high failure rate. Busy adults may find it difficult to keep up the time commitment. The physical demands of a daily workout can result in sore muscles, injury and exhaustion. When your body announces that it simply doesn't have the wherewithal to struggle through the day's planned workout, your mind may interpret the inability to keep up as failure. This, in turn, can lead to discouragement and the temptation to call it quits.
Give It a Rest
Weight lifting can cause small tears in muscle fibers that need to heal before you work those muscles again. The "Go Ask Alice!" team of health and fitness experts at Columbia University in New York recommends working on four different muscle groups in three-day cycles, leaving two days of rest in between for each group. The team also recommends reserving one day a week for complete rest.
A Well-Rounded Routine
In addition to working different muscle groups on different days, you can alternate days for strength training and cardiovascular workouts. Mayo Clinic physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., says that intense aerobic activity may leave a person too tired to complete their weight-lifting routine and vice versa. No medical proof suggests any benefit from doing one type of exercise before the other. Laskowski suggests making a fitness schedule that allows for aerobic activity one day and weight lifting the following day.
Week by Week
Health experts agree that the amount and type of exercise a person undertakes depends on individual fitness goals. However, exercise scientists recommend using the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans as a starting point when shaping a personal fitness program. The guidelines do not explicitly recommend a daily workout routine, but outline recommendations for weekly fitness goals. According to the guidelines, adults experience substantial health benefits from doing at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. The guidelines also recommend moderate or high-intensity muscle-strengthening activities involving all major muscle groups on two or more days per week.