How Much Exercise Do You REALLY Need to Lose Weight?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  1399 comments   :  1,510,940 Views

It's not exactly earth-shattering news that exercise is essential for shedding pounds. Along with proper nutrition and a calorie-moderated diet, regular activity is a critical piece of the weight-loss equation—but how much? If you feel like the gym has become your second home, or if you're spending more hours walking, running or doing fitness videos than hanging out with your family, you might be overdoing it. Conversely, if your daily exercise consists of a 15-minute stroll around the block, you might need to ramp up your efforts to see real results.
Fortunately, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has provided some scientific guidance so you don't have to rely on guesswork.

Exercise Guidelines for Overall Health

In 2011, the ACSM released some general recommendations for how much exercise is needed to reap overall health and cardiovascular benefits. According to these guidelines, adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Broken down to 20 minutes per day, that might not sound like much—and for obese adults who are trying to lose weight, it may not be enough.
Take care to focus on the types of exercise you're doing in addition to the quantity. The ACSM recommends a diversified routine that includes the following four disciplines:
  1. Cardio Exercise: Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, which can be 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week or 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise three days per week. These can also be split into shorter, more frequent segments. Check out our 110 cardio ideas.
  2. Resistance Exercise: This includes strength training of major muscle groups two or three days each week, using either hand weights, resistance bands, weight machines or other equipment. Try to complete two to four sets of each exercise, starting with eight to 12 reps, then 10 to 15, and finally 15 to 20 to improve muscular endurance.
  3. Flexibility Exercise: It's recommended to perform stretching or yoga two or three days per week to improve range of motion. Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat two to four times.
  4. Functional Fitness Training: Two to three days per week, for 20 to 30 minutes per day, adults should engage in exercises that work their motor skills, such as balance, coordination and agility. This is especially important to prevent falls and increase mobility for older adults.

Exercise Guidelines for Weight Loss

If you're trying to lose weight, you most likely need more than the general recommended amount of 150 weekly minutes of exercise—but how much more? The ACSM released updated guidelines for weight loss and prevention of weight regain. For overweight and obese individuals, 250+ minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity will be more effective in reducing weight and keeping it off. Strength training is also highly recommended to increase fat-burning muscle and improve overall health.

What do you think? Does 50 minutes of exercise, five days a week seem like a lot to you, or is that in line with what you're already doing? What amount of daily exercise has given you the best results?

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  • 1399
    great - 5/16/2017   5:42:20 PM
    If you really want to lose weight than stick to this plan. / - 5/14/2017   10:24:02 PM
    Great article! - 5/14/2017   10:22:45 PM
    Losing weight is not easy for adults people.
    / - 5/13/2017   3:21:28 AM
  • 1395
    I think its not HOW much but the fact that we're consistent and maintain a daily workout our choice!!!
    Keep on moving on!! - 5/10/2017   1:05:38 PM
    This is a great article................Thank You. - 5/7/2017   9:43:16 PM
  • 1393
    A lot of great information contained in here! I will put some of this to practice today! - 5/7/2017   7:33:48 PM
  • 1392
    GREAT guide - 5/7/2017   6:48:47 AM
  • YMWONG22
    Informative article. Thanks. - 5/7/2017   5:31:39 AM
  • 1390
    I'm seeing results doing 50 - 70 minutes a day. - 5/6/2017   2:25:52 PM
  • 1389
    Sounds reasonable to me. - 5/5/2017   6:11:58 PM
  • 1388
    I find that I have to do about 60 minutes of cardio to lose weight. - 5/5/2017   3:21:05 PM
    Exercise (movement) makes me feel healthy & good about myself - 5/5/2017   2:03:08 PM
  • 1386
    I've lost a LOT of weight over my long lifetime -- and usually, exercise was a component that I felt was key. However, I've now lost 46lbs in 4.5 months with ZERO exercise and a sedentary job. I'm also short and post-menopausal, so all the usual bug-a-boos are against me. I've also found my weekly loses average the same without exercise as they did when I was killing it w/ cardio in past efforts. Several recent scientific studies in the past 2 - 3 years have shown that exercise is not the Holy Grail of weight loss. It can even hamper efforts because it makes us hungrier, or leads us to eat more because we think "I can work it off at the gym later." Do I plan to become more *active* as my weight drops? Yes. Do I think I have to pound it out on the treadmill daily to achieve success? No. Do what's right for YOU. - 5/5/2017   1:30:21 PM
  • 1385
    Fits in my schedule! - 5/5/2017   11:09:24 AM
  • 1384
    thank you for the info - 5/5/2017   10:02:01 AM
    Exercise amount is so vital to weight loss and to general well being. - 5/5/2017   8:02:03 AM
  • 1382
    Very informative - thanks for posting! - 5/5/2017   12:58:06 AM
  • 1381
    Good article. Thank you. - 5/4/2017   11:11:03 PM
  • 1380
    Thanks! - 5/4/2017   10:13:48 PM
  • 1379
    keep forgetting to stretch. Never had that problem years ago. - 5/4/2017   8:04:27 PM
  • 1378
    Great article. Didn't start out doing this much, but ion maintenance probably do more. Could do more strength work.... - 5/4/2017   7:52:51 PM
  • 1377
    Great article. Very informative. Thanks SP! - 5/4/2017   7:26:11 PM
  • 1376
    Since we have to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound, it is much better not to eat it than to try to "burn it off." Exercise is important but what you put in your mouth is KEY. Exercise makes us healthier and helps us lose the weight faster.

    I am in the 5% Spring Challenge and exercise 120 minutes per day. - 5/4/2017   4:12:07 PM
  • 1375
    I have lost almost 100 pounds with minimal excersise... I have controlled my calorie intake to compensate. I realize once I reach my weight loss goals excersise will be more important. But weight loss is 80% nutrition 20% physical activity... - 5/4/2017   3:40:12 PM
  • 1374
    I walk 1-2 miles a day. Do weights & cardio as well. I work out 6 days a week and only walk on the 7th day. Exercise is great but f you don't modify the amount you eat, you will not lose weight. I speak from experience. - 5/4/2017   3:38:15 PM
  • 1373
    I do far and away more exercise than that amount to maintain my weight. I have done 350 minutes just these first four days of the new week. I also still track my food. It never hurts to monitor it. I eat pretty much the same group of things so it makes for a quick and easy track. No excuses for regain here. - 5/4/2017   3:05:30 PM
  • 1372
    nice - 5/4/2017   2:36:35 PM
  • 1371
    You have to do what's best for you to meet your goals. Weight loss has always been fought and won in the kitchen. 75% of weight loss is food. I get in over 350 of weight training, cardio and stretching a week. I can do that and still stay fluffy with moderate eating. - 5/4/2017   2:28:37 PM
  • 1370
    If I find I haven't worked out to the best of my ability, I do go in for more but I try to do spot fitness. I know some times it doesn't work but in my mind I'm doing and doing it well...

    God bless,

    Dee - 5/4/2017   2:21:54 PM
    Peggy as I age I find it imperative to exercise to keep flexible, avoid injury and keep healthy. You should do some kind of movement every day. I see it in my 81 year old mom, she moves and she's in better health than my Dad, who doesn't. While I think you should aim to push yourself a little bit more each month, be careful of injuries and don't overdo it until you know what your body can handle. Strength training increases bone density and is great for aging adults. Low impact cardio like walking and water aerobics is easier on your joints. Start slowly, increase slowly and journal diligently so you know what you're and how much to push yourself. Congrats to you. So many older people are very sedentary which aggravates the ailments of aging tenfold. I'm only 46 and I know this from experience. A sedentary body is weak and rife with potential for arthritis, weakness and injury. Also, speak to your GP about whether or not a fitness regimen is ok for you. Good luck. - 5/4/2017   1:03:55 PM
    I've been a quasi professional gym rat, losing 68 lbs from 203 to 135 before and I diligently journaled every bite of food (keeping to1250-1500 calories a day, and I'm petite) and I did strength training at least 4 days a week, really committed to each muscle group once a week for a good 45 minutes, ie, back and chest, quads and hams, biceps and triceps and deltoids, then and abs, and glutes. On top of that I did at least 40 minutes of cardio most days, really pushing myself on the stair climber, interval training with jogging/walking on a high incline, and the stair master. Occasionally I'd do "easy" things like just walk, and sometimes I'd bike ride outside. The total time invested in my exercise routine was a good hour and a half a day, 5-6 days a week. I also worked, went back to college full time and worked in a hospital doing clinical rotations, and had 2 kids as a single mom. All that "I have no time", it's true, you make the time for what you want. I wanted a kick ass body, strong muscles and amazing cardiovascular health, and I got it. How much you do depends on what you want. Are you ok with above average, average, mediocre or ....? Just saying "I did it" isn't good enough health wise if you phone in your exercise. You get what you put in. There's no easy reward if you have high goals. - 5/4/2017   12:56:35 PM
    I am 81 years old, and fairly good health, should I be exercising, and how much? What kind of exercise? Please advise. thankyou. - 5/4/2017   11:00:59 AM
  • 1366
    This article sounds like exercise should be a full time job, along with all the other full time jobs in my life. I truly think that activity is more important than exercise, you can exercise for 60 minutes a day but if you are a couch potato the rest of the day it doesn't help much. Exercise shouldn't be penalty, there are many enjoyable ways to get moving out there without going to the gym or running. When I look at some of my Fitbit friend list and realize that many people only get 2500 to 5000 steps a day, it indicates they do not do much moving at all. - 5/4/2017   10:24:42 AM
  • 1365
    I exercise somewhere between 350-500 minutes most weeks, including 15-25 miles of runs and 10-15 miles of walks, and I still cannot lost weight unless I really control my food. I lost 48 pounds last year, with even more running that's I'm currently able (due to an injury) but got off track a little with the food, and gained back about 8 pounds. Now those 8 pound seem stuck to me with gorilla glue (if you know what that is, you know how hard it is to get these pounds off). I'll tell you, if I stopped exercising, or reduced to only 150 minutes per week, I'd blow up like a balloon. - 5/4/2017   9:49:39 AM
  • 1364
    My goal is 300 minutes/week, combination of cardio and ST, and I make it exceed it 90% of the time. - 5/4/2017   9:23:02 AM
  • 1363
    I know for me, I almost never lose much because of diet. It's always exercise. But I've had exercise bulimia since high school. So what would I know? - 5/4/2017   9:13:56 AM
    Never quit! - 5/4/2017   7:33:28 AM
    Keep moving forward - 5/4/2017   7:03:18 AM
  • 1360
    I di 240 minutes three days a week, then moderately on other days. I am disabled and 64. I need more exercise. - 5/4/2017   6:50:51 AM
  • 1359
    I've lost 45 lbs without exercising and still losing. I started at 303 could barley move. Changing my eating habits was the only option I had. Now I can move much better but still very over weight I've just now started walking alittle more. Not much maybe a half mile a couple times a week. But I'm still losing weight. It can be done without exercising. So don't get discouraged thinking you have to workout. Just do what you can. No matter on your size you can focus on and control what you eat. So, big thumbs down 👎 for this article. BTW Yes I know exercising is good for your heart and overall health. Some people can't for different reasons and you have to start somewhere and it can be done. - 5/4/2017   5:59:44 AM
  • 1358
    For the past 9 weeks I have averaged 250+ minutes of exercise per week. Prior to that I was injured and was nowhere near that amount of exercise and managed to maintain my weight loss despite an inability to move much. I simply reduced my nutritional intake given there was no longer a need to fuel the activity and did just fine. My experience seems to indicate that nutrition is a far more important factor when it comes to weight loss and weight maintenance than physical activity. Physical activity is good for other reasons; but, is not the primary driver of weight loss. - 5/4/2017   12:39:10 AM
  • 1357
    Functional fitness, who knew? I need to look into this more! - 5/3/2017   11:45:53 PM
  • 1356
    Thanks - 5/3/2017   4:07:43 PM
    Thank you - 5/3/2017   3:46:16 PM
  • 1354
    Thank you - 5/3/2017   11:07:23 AM
  • 1353
    Thanks for a great article! :) - 5/3/2017   9:20:46 AM
  • 1352
    Great article! - 5/3/2017   8:22:00 AM
  • 1351
    I always wonder this...thanks for posting! - 5/3/2017   7:38:17 AM
    thank you for this article lots of helpful info - 5/3/2017   6:08:38 AM

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