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How Much Exercise Is Enough to Lose Weight?

The amount of exercise you need a day is a difficult question to answer.

Celebrities often claim to exercise two hours a day. On TV, weight loss shows feature people exercising more than four hours each day. Health advocates say 30 minutes of daily activity is enough to keep you healthy.

So…how much exercise do you really need?

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it’s more than previously thought.


With 66% of the U.S. adult population either overweight or obese, weight management has become an urgent issue. It seems the more we obsess about weight, the fatter we become. Where “thin is in,” we are not…thin. Or healthy.

An updated “Position Stand” just published in the February 2009 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, the official journal of the American
College of Sports Medicine
features revised exercise time recommendations for three categories:

Preventing weight gain
Weight loss
Preventing weight regain

PREVENTING WEIGHT GAIN

It’s easier to keep your weight down than to try to lose what you’ve already gained. 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise, i.e. walking, is enough to do just that. Roughly translated, 150 minutes is about 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Think that’s too much? How much time do you spend watching TV? Surfing the web? Talking on the phone? Sitting at a coffee shop? It’s probably more than 30 minutes each day. But the good news? Studies have shown that breaking your exercise session up, for example into three 10-minute bouts, is just as effective as one longer session. So walk during your morning break, take the stairs, or walk the kids home from school. Baby steps. 10-minute baby steps.

WEIGHT LOSS

More than 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity is recommended for modest weight loss benefits. However, more than 250 minutes per week provides significantly greater amounts of weight loss.

250 minutes per week – how much is that per day? Hmmm. That’s about 50 minutes per day, five days a week. Still not that bad. 20 minute walk in the early morning, 10 minute walk during a break, 20 minute walk after dinner. Or a 1-hour group exercise class four days a week, plus one short walk.

Significant weight loss is worth it, isn’t it?

WEIGHT LOSS MAINTENANCE

ACSM states there is evidence that more than 250 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity will prevent weight regain.

One would hope so, and yes, that is a lot. But for those of us who have lost a large amount of weight, our bodies will always fight to regain it. We have to work harder than “non-previously fat people.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

These are ACSM’s recommendations for “moderate-intensity physical activity.” But as many experts will tell you, there are ways to exercise less and still reap weight loss and health benefits.

Exercise at a higher intensity to burn more calories overall.
Perform intervals while walking, running or cycling (work very hard for 20 seconds, then recover for at least three times that amount, work very hard again, then recover)

Do multiple-muscle or large muscle exercises (squats, lunges, side steps with bicep curl, full pushups, ball rollouts), kettlebell training, bootcamps, or circuit training.

Strength train. Like most fitness professionals, ACSM also recommends strength training as part of a health and fitness regimen in order to increase muscle mass and further reduce health risks.

My general rule of thumb? If you can read a magazine or book while exercising, it’s too easy. Focus on the work, and exercise harder, but for a shorter time period. Make each minute count. Walk and chat with your friends, sure, as part of your “30-minutes a day” general rule. But work with intensity for weight loss.

“Some people dream of success… while others wake up and work hard at it.”
~Author Unknown

Precisely.

Q: So, where do you fall in all of this? Do you think it’s possible to get that much exercise? Do you have any tips to share on how you fit it in? Let us know!

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Anton Dragovich
Anton Dragovich
8 years ago

Hey, Awesome post. Thanks!

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