How Much Exercise Do You REALLY Need to Lose Weight?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  1439 comments   :  1,600,017 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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  • 1439
    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. - 2/15/2018   3:31:00 PM
  • 1438
    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. - 2/15/2018   3:28:42 PM
  • 1437
    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..... - 1/30/2018   3:05:52 AM
  • JT123456789
    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? - 1/14/2018   8:02:28 PM
    Iím 65 years 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. - 1/11/2018   9:27:43 PM
  • 1434
    Great article. Thanks - 1/10/2018   10:36:16 PM
  • 1433
    Great article. Thanks - 1/10/2018   10:36:15 PM
  • 1432
    Great insight into what is needed and how to attain it! - 11/20/2017   8:53:18 AM
  • 1431
    Good to know. - 11/10/2017   6:21:48 AM
  • 1430
    Some great insight. - 11/9/2017   7:40:07 AM
    Thank you - 10/4/2017   12:26:11 AM
  • 1428
    I appreciated the information and links in this article--thanks so much! - 9/23/2017   1:39:55 AM
    Thanks for showing this. It is really important to do exercise everyday. - 9/21/2017   1:56:11 AM
  • 1426
    I love you more than yesterday, less than tomorrow.
    - Edmond Rostand - 9/13/2017   1:04:02 AM
    good article to read on - 9/11/2017   12:57:16 AM
  • 1424
    I need to strength train more - 9/8/2017   1:16:49 PM
  • 1423
    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. - 9/8/2017   9:17:50 AM
  • 1422
    Awesome article. - 9/8/2017   8:26:30 AM
  • 1421
    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 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. - 9/8/2017   7:07:24 AM
  • 1420
    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. - 9/7/2017   4:30:52 PM
  • 1419
    Write it on your heart that every day
    is the best day in the year.
    - Ralph Waldo Emerson - 9/7/2017   3:02:38 PM
  • 1418
    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. - 9/7/2017   1:51:44 PM
    Thanks for the tips. - 9/7/2017   5:30:16 AM
  • 1416
    Thanks. - 9/7/2017   1:32:17 AM
  • 1415
    Interesting - 8/8/2017   6:49:57 AM
    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 - 7/15/2017   6:10:04 AM
  • 1413
    nice - 7/13/2017   2:58:40 PM
  • 1412
    Thanks for the information. It can be very useful. - 6/15/2017   11:48:51 PM
  • 1411
    Good article - 6/15/2017   9:57:57 PM
  • 1410
    I definitely need to do both: put the fork down and move. One alone is not enough. - 6/15/2017   7:47:25 PM
  • 1409
    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.

    - 6/15/2017   12:35:34 PM
  • 1408
    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 didnt work. I tried exercise 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. - 6/15/2017   9:11:44 AM
    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. - 6/15/2017   8:15:14 AM
  • 1406
    Great article! - 6/15/2017   7:58:38 AM
  • 1405
    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. - 6/15/2017   7:16:50 AM
  • 1404
    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 - 6/15/2017   7:05:50 AM
  • 1403
    Don't confuse losing weight with health. You need exercise to stay healthy. You lose weight by dieting. You need to do both sensibly. - 6/15/2017   6:13:18 AM
    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. - 6/15/2017   5:43:37 AM
    thanks - 6/14/2017   4:56:27 PM
    thanks - 6/14/2017   4:56:27 PM
  • 1399
    Loved this article!!! - 6/5/2017   5:02:02 AM
    Thanks - 6/3/2017   6:23:53 AM
  • 1397
    great - 5/16/2017   5:42:20 PM
    Great article! - 5/14/2017   10:22:45 PM
  • 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

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