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How Much Exercise Do You REALLY Need to Lose Weight?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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Comments

SUSANSKI 2/15/2018
There seems to be confusion regarding someone's post on here, who thinks you have to work out '14 days a week'. I think they misunderstood something, but I am unable to respond to them privately and see where the confusion lies. I hope they figure it out. Report
SUSANSKI 2/15/2018
Well, as I spark, I continue to learn about my bodies needs. I've always 'tried' to get in shape, but it's been a journey learning how to do that, failing and adjusting. After getting my food plan established and working out 30 minutes a day, I wasn't seeing results in the numbers on the scale. So I've been working on adjusting my cardio to 60 minutes at a time. (or split). I think I'm seeing results that way. I hope so! I can't afford to GAIN more, that's for sure. Report
POLSKARENIA 1/30/2018
At 56, I try to do an average of at least one hour per day, about 500-600 minutes most weeks. Having a desk cycle means I can pedal while relaxing and not really notice the time fly by. I also do weights for 2-3 hours a week. Seems like a lot, but soon goes..... Report
JT123456789 1/14/2018
So I'm supposed to exercise 14 days a week? How about a realistic guide for a 6 day a week program with the 7th day off for rest? Report
FATCOW5 1/11/2018
Iím 65 years old....golf 4 times a week, weights twice a week, abs and stretches twice a week, yoga twice a week, walk 3 times a week, bike once a week. There is no way I could do all that you suggest. Iím considered active for my age group. Report
ILOVEROSES 1/10/2018
Great article. Thanks Report
ILOVEROSES 1/10/2018
Great article. Thanks Report
JOHNMARTINMILES 11/20/2017
Great insight into what is needed and how to attain it! Report
EVILCECIL 11/10/2017
Good to know. Report
BILLTHOMSON 11/9/2017
Some great insight. Report
NASFKAB 10/4/2017
Thank you Report
EO4WELLNESS 9/23/2017
I appreciated the information and links in this article--thanks so much! Report
YAQELILO 9/21/2017
Thanks for showing this. It is really important to do exercise everyday. www.exbackbook.com Report
JVANAM 9/13/2017
I love you more than yesterday, less than tomorrow.
- Edmond Rostand Report
ASHLEY_HOOPER 9/11/2017
good article to read on Report
SHOAPIE 9/8/2017
I need to strength train more Report
MTN_KITTEN 9/8/2017
Losing weight is more about changing behaviors which changes your health ... which then changes your weight.

It's all intertwined. You can't not exercise away a unsupportive diet. But you also can not diet away an inactive lifestyle. Report
MBPP50 9/8/2017
Awesome article. Report
DEBVNE 9/8/2017
If your focus is on losing weight, then exercise might not be a part of your day. However, if your focus is on your overall health? It will be. This article has been updated since it was first written. I respect that it now discusses functional fitness, mobility and balance. Big picture for me...fitness and nutrition have to be besties. One without the other means I am not doing what needs to be done to optimize my health. Each of us get to determine how to make any of this work for us...there is no one size fits all kind of deal here. Moving beats sitting, something beats nothing. If you only have 20 minutes in your day to workout and you treat your body to exercise?! Nothing but mad respect for doing all you can within your constraints...which is a key component in being able to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Report
APACHESTEVE 9/7/2017
Interesting read, thank you for sharing. The 150 minute number sounds high at first to me. Then I checked my Spark Fitness Journals and I've been doing more than that now for a while and didn't realize how much the numbers had added up. I'm hardly a fitness nut, and did not start at 150 plus minutes. I had to slowly build. Almost 2 years ago when I got going all I could do was 10 minutes on a stationary bike. I think the point is to challenge yourself to be healthy and break out of the exercise comfort zone now and then. Report
JVANAM 9/7/2017
Write it on your heart that every day
is the best day in the year.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson Report
WOUBBIE 9/7/2017
Exercising my critical thinking muscles today.

Nothing in this article ACTUALLY SAYS that exercise is responsible for weight loss. There are a lot of presumptions ("It's not exactly earth-shattering news that exercise is essential for shedding pounds.") but no facts.

Even the article in the link can't bring itself to say that exercise leads to much more than "modest" weight loss (and what do they consider "modest"? 5% of body weight?):

"Greater amounts of physical activity are likely to be needed to achieve weight loss..."

"150-250 minutes/week of moderate-intensity physical activity is associated with prevention of weight gain. More than 150 minutes/week of moderate-intensity physical activity is associated with modest weight loss."

"150-250 minutes/week of moderate-intensity physical activity provides only modest weight loss. Greater amounts (ie. greater than 250) provide clinically significant weight loss."

The best they can come up with is this:

"There is some evidence that more than 250 minutes/week of moderate-intensity physical activity will prevent weight re-gain."

And finally, this gem, with no references to back it up:

"Energy/diet restriction combined with physical activity will increase weight loss as compared to diet alone."

If they are not comfortable stating anything with any degree of conviction or backing documentation, then you know they're fudging.

The truth is that we need exercise to be healthy, but most weight loss or gain will be accomplished in the grocery store, the pantry, and the restaurant, not the gym. Report
ROCKS8ROX 9/7/2017
Thanks for the tips. Report
DJ4HEALTH 9/7/2017
Thanks. Report
EMGERBER 8/8/2017
Interesting Report
LOSEWEIGHTZ1 7/15/2017
Thanks for sharing a wonderful article on losing weight. I am also a lose weight trainer and I have a blog too by LoseWeightz. Please check my blog Too.
Thanks in advance Report
LOVELY*LADY 7/13/2017
nice Report
JAMER123 6/15/2017
Thanks for the information. It can be very useful. Report
SHOAPIE 6/15/2017
Good article Report
KAT7777 6/15/2017
I definitely need to do both: put the fork down and move. One alone is not enough. Report
MT-MOONCHASER 6/15/2017
The best exercise a person can do to lose weight is to fill in the nutrition tracker while staying within your calorie range.

Formal exercise is NOT NECESSARY to lose weight, HOWEVER, it is necessary for cardiovascular health.

Report
RAMBLER61 6/15/2017
Some folks say no exercise is required to lose weight. Well, I think it depends a lot on the individual. In my case, I tried dieting alone...it didnt work. I tried exercise alone...no good. Then I tried both, but in conjunction with training for a goal. That worked. For me, just plain exercise doesn't do it. I have to be training. That means "progressing" towards something. I can't just go out and jog the same time or distance at the same pace every day and expect results. (If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got). So, I have to mix it up. Go faster one day, go longer another day, improve a little each week or each month. Better, stronger, faster. Add healthy eating to the mix...not so much a huge calorie deficit, but a deficit none the less. More like taking a look at the calorie requirement at my target or goal weight and fitness level, and reducing just a little off of that level, instead of trying for some massive calorie deficit number. I figured that learning how to maintain would be just as important as losing the weight and gaining the fitness in the first place, so I picked numbers that would not over tax my metabolism in the first place, and from which I could boost just a few calories and be fine...kind of like learning to live an eating pattern. That of course means that the weight loss will be quicker at first but will then slow to almost an imperceptible crawl. All of that said, I kind of got a little off program with a running injury in Q4 of last year, that still bothers me. I'm slowly re-habbing that. But worse, I had so many family get-togethers that i didnt stick to the eating plan as well as I should have. Together, all of that has meant that I maintained most of my weight loss over the past year, within 3-4 pounds, but I did not take off that last 8-10 that I wanted to take off. So now, with those extra 3-4 and the 10 or so I wanted to lose, I've re-set my goal and I'm working diligently to achieve it. Same program...train, and eat healthy for the most part. In 2-3 months, I'll be there. Report
LAURELR99 6/15/2017
Actually, NO exercise at all is needed to lose weight! I once lost a lot of weight on WW and could not exercise at that time.

Many people cannot exercise for various reasons and lose weight despite that. IDEALLY, anyone who can should exercise anyway , for overall health, but there are people with bad knees, post surgical rehab times, injuries, lung problems, broken ankle or other bone fx, plantar fasciitis, M.S, and dozens of other things that make exercise impossible. Some people are disabled. What a discouraging article!
It's calories, in and calories out.
If you CAN exercise, that's a plus. Report
JANTHEBLONDE 6/15/2017
Great article! Report
NELLJONES 6/15/2017
Exercise is essential for better health, but isn't necessary to lose weight. Before about 1980, exercise was never even mentioned in conjunction with weight loss, yet people still lost weight. Report
BROOKLYN_BORN 6/15/2017
I especially like the concept of functional fitness. How do we want to spend our last 10 years? Got to keep active in mind and body Report
CED1106 6/15/2017
Don't confuse losing weight with health. You need exercise to stay healthy. You lose weight by dieting. You need to do both sensibly. Report
COMPASS2K 6/15/2017
First line of this article - "It's not exactly earth-shattering news that exercise is essential for shedding pounds'.
Its also wrong.

If you consume less than your energic requirements you will lose weight - with or without exercise.

Exercise increases those requirements and has other benefits but frankly no - your statement is not remotely true.

Understand you are a journalist not a health specialist but you should know that much if you are going to blog on the subject. Report
BONDMANUS2002 6/14/2017
thanks Report
BONDMANUS2002 6/14/2017
thanks Report
JANIEWWJD 6/5/2017
Loved this article!!! Report
CHERYLHURT 6/3/2017
Thanks Report
great Report
GORDONED
Great article! Report
I think its not HOW much but the fact that we're consistent and maintain a daily workout our choice!!!
Keep on moving on!! Report
PATRICIAANN46
This is a great article................Thank You. Report
A lot of great information contained in here! I will put some of this to practice today! Report
GREAT guide Report
YMWONG22
Informative article. Thanks. Report
I'm seeing results doing 50 - 70 minutes a day. Report
 
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