1 Hour: Amount Women Should Exercise to Prevent Weight Gain

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We all know that regular physical activity has a variety of health benefits and can help with weight loss. But wouldn't it be nice to know how much you need to exercise daily in order to prevent weight problems in the first place? According to a new study, an hour of moderate-intensity exercise each day could be the magic number.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that one hour of moderate-intensity exercise each day was enough to help middle age and older women maintain a normal weight. And if they were able to exercise vigorously, just 30 minutes each day was enough to help normal-weight women maintain their weight. This also assumed the women had a normal, healthy diet.

The study followed over 34,000 women for 13 years. Their average age was 54. Overall, participants gained an average of 5.7 pounds over the 13 years, which is considered normal for the general population. But the women who exercised for 60 minutes daily tended to gain fewer pounds than average, compared to those who exercised less.

What kinds of activities count? Moderate-intensity activities would include things like brisk walking, playing with kids, household chores, and casual biking. Vigorous-intensity activities would include things like running, swimming laps, high impact aerobics, and basketball. And if you're not able to do a full 60 minutes of exercise each day, don't despair. You can still get health benefits from less because some is definitely better than none.

The results of this study did not apply to overweight and obese individuals. Numerous studies have looked at how exercise can help people lose weight, but this is one of the few to look at preventing weight-gain over time in normal-weight individuals.

What do you think? If you're someone who is trying to maintain your weight, what amount of exercise works best for you?

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I agree that this is encouraging. Once I get to the weight I want and can maintain a healthy diet I'm sure I will be glad to have between 30 - 60 minute work outs...unless I'm training for something specific of course. Report
Short article, but it makes sense. I usually only do 30 minutes of activity a day. I think it's about finding things that don't feel like exercise or just simply changing your mentality. Report
This study and blog reminds me of The Step Diet, which says approx. the same thing (see the SparkTeam by the same name). I believe it's right on - hour moderate, 30 mins vigorous, per day (The Step Diet gradually builds you up to 10,000 steps per day instead of timing it you count steps). Report
I work out anywhere from 20 mins to an hour daily. My exercise is usually very intense though. I believe in quality over quantity. Sometimes I do get out for long, moderate walks and not the HIIT or whatever else I had planned. Those days are a nice break from the usual. Report
If this study or whatever was dr inspired. ...then people who never exercised would probably feel defeated. That seems excessive some people have health challenges that will not allow them to exercise for that long of a period. If you count heavy house hold chores in the equation then I do 60 min most days of the week. My goal is 20-45 min daily. Something to work at. But I will not allow that big 60 minutes number stop to stop me. I will work at what I can do for now and worry about Mr. 60 minutes later. At my last dr appointment he he told me 30 min and that is ok with me. Progress not perfection. To those who do 60 minutes more power to you. ..for those who 30 keep going baby. I sure am. Report
I agree with Karen214...one hour really isn't much...i spend at least an hour on the Wii before I do my strength training...but what helps is my 14 year old son playing against me and helping with the dumbbells... Report
One hour a day is really not much, however the majority of us now days sit at desk and have little actrivity. Just doing your own house work would add up to more then one hour. We as a nation need to start moving. Report
I agree whoeheartedly, but it takes alot sometimes to get to the gym, but, we all know that it can ge done and has been done. Report
I wrote a blog about this, saying that it seemed to be true for me( I'm 64, work out at least an hour a day and am at my goal weight). I got so many negative comments( my priorities were wrong, etc,) that I deleted the blog so I wouldn't get any more critism. Report
The one hour sounds like normal every day activities combined with regular exercise, not one full hour of exercise. I do find it hard to fit in more than 30 min. exercise but I do a lot around my house and with the kids so I would say I'm hitting it most days and if not I can only do what I can do in this day, tomorrow is a new one and I can do better as I am able to-staying positive is the key for me, otherwise I would have given up long ago! Report
When you think about it as children I'm sure we were all doing some sort of exercise for an hour or more. I think the articles just wants to stress staying active. And the more you stay active the more you want to do. I know there are days that I'm just not up for 60 minutes of exercise at once. I think you need to do what feels right for you. Eating healthy, staying active and knowing when to relax :) I don't think there is a magic number that works for everyone. Each person is different and so are their metabolisms. Just my 2 cents. Report
Bedroom activity counts too, right? Report
This story bums me out. I thought I was doing great when I could do 30 mins. a day - now it makes me feel like a failure... Report
When I was "younger" I use to work out 2 hours 4-5 times a week. Now that I'm older, I'm subject to menopause and slower metabolism. I am now working out (walking, jogging, lifting weights) and somehow lost weight but reached a plateau. I will have to probably look at my diet and portions in order to lose some more weight in addition to my workout 5days a week. Lordy! Report
They don't mention how many calories you are supposed to be consuming, just that it is a "normal, healthy diet". Without more specific information this amount seems a little arbitrary. It is good that they say 30 minutes of intense exercise, that seems a little more surmountable. Report
Well no wonder I have struggled the last 10 years! 60 minutes is easy for some of you, but it's not so easy for me. I will just have to try to work a little something into each day, winter, spring, summer and fall. I wish I had room in my house for a treadmill, that would be awesome! A treadmill that would slide under the couch would be perfect! Does such a beast exist??? Report
This is from the study (there is a link to it in the blog). The definition of "moderate intensity" is important!!
~~~An hour a day of moderate-intensity exercise will prevent weight gain in normal-weight women, middle age and older, according to a new study.
"'Moderate intensity' means brisk walking, casual bicycling, ballroom dancing, playing with the grandchildren," said Dr. I-Min Lee, lead author of the study, which is published in the March 24/31 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.~~~ Report
WOW. 60 Minutes just to Maintain current weight. I actually did not know that. I do walk every day, about 120 minutes at about 17 minutes/mile. But it is in 4 parts. I walk to the Bus Stop where I catch my bus for the 100 kilometre commute to work, and walk another 1/2 hour more when I get to the stop at the other end. Then coming home again I repeat the process. It's walking but it's not "power-walking". I am diligent about it every day. But I am disabled and 56. I thought that is plenty enough. But it sounds that this is not really exercise, by this kind of measure. Maybe that's why the weight is not coming off faster. And I thought that this is a lot. After this information , it sounds that the only way the weight will come off is by strenuous, cardio type fast walking. Sweat a little. I can try to walk a little faster. But I have degenerative disc and an injured knee, and 56 years old. this article has made me think that perhaps what I think of as "exercise" really isn't. Another piece of denial bites the dust. Thank you. Report
I do 60 min brisk walking (3.3 mph) on the treadmill a minimum of 4 x wk. This study has me a little concerned since I am not trying to maintain, but I need to lose! Now what? Report
I walk my dog 45-60min at least 5x a week as well as a Wii Active workout everyday. I am losing the weight and very excited about it. Report
What I would love to do for an hour is weight training,at the moment fee constraints are against me,but I do 10 or 15 min of Dancercise then 15 min of skipping,or lunges I always walk a lot as well.I try to use lots of water but so far those 8 cups are elluding me.I can only make 5 a day and this includes tea. Report
I try for at least 60 mins of exercise a day. I normally do more than that in cardio. I just lots of different things besides the gym so not to get boring. Anyone can get up and walk in place at the tv commercials every night. That is close to 20 mins an hour. Report
I often do more than 60 minutes of cardio a day, and many times it is vigorous. But I have a calorie range from SparkPeople that recognizes that I can then eat between 2000 and 2350 calories each day and not gain weight - and that works for me. It's only when I eat more than my range (on a regular basis) that I start to see the scale go up. This article is interesting for me because I could reduce my exercise and eat more moderately, but what's the fun in that? Report
I just started on trying to lose weight, and I can try to get in about an hour to start with. And I will move forward as the weeks progress. Report
The study sounds reasonable to me. Finding 10 minutes for exercise in recent months has proven to be a problem. Recently I've had to make some major changes to my home that require moving furniture, heaving cleaning, packing and throwing out. I probably work on this project for a minimum of 2 or 3 hours per day, a minimum 5 or 6 days per week (project has to be completed before the end of the month). Without watching my eating, I have actually lost a couple pounds. Report
I certainly couldn't get in an hour at the gym every day. But come on, people--60 minutes of moderate activity out of 1440 minutes in the day is not that much! That includes walking to the mailbox, climbing the stairs, housecleaning, dancing around to your favorite 3 minute song on the radio, a 10 minute walk break at work, 30 seconds of wall pushups. I should hope I will continue to get 60 minutes on my feet moving around every day for the rest of my life, not just for weight maintenance, but for my mental health!! I'd go crazy sitting still over 23 hours a day! Report
This is really interesting. I'll have to share it with a co-worker. She was complaining today about how getting older makes it harder to lose weight or avoid gaining weight even though you work out and eat right. I disagree with her to a point but I think I'll show her this article anyway. Report
WOW! you ppl are DEDICATED to working out! i'm at the gym 4 days a wk, anywhere from an hour ( yessssssssssss!) to 2, and to be honest, i'm bored with that!
yes, i change up my exercises, classes, etc.but i'm old, i want a senior citizen discount!! there is no way i'll work out an hour 7 days a wk; i'd rather drink water one day/wk.

not to sound ugly, but, seriously... HOW do you workout an hour a day w/out being burned out! i can't find the motivation--good for you if you can!
findings like that do NOT encourage ppl to START exercising... Report
Sigh, moan and groan! I'm 53 and I read about the study. True, us middle agers have to exercise a lot. One hour is quite a bit. I am fortunate that I've made 1 hour of exercise (both vigorous and moderate) a priority but I've had to give up other things to fit it in after work and on weekends. I'm not an early bird so getting up early doesn't work for me. Sometimes I rebel against the idea that I have to do this for the rest of my life JUST TO AVOID GAINING WEIGHT BACK, but it's important...my life might depend on in (pre-diabetic trying to forestall diabetes). Report
Maybe it's just me, but declaration like this just depresses me. It's hard enough to find 20-30 mins on most days to sweat it out. And, to read that I need to do 60 mins min to maintain - then to lose, it seems clear that I need to do even more. It seems insurmountable... unlike so many here, I don't enjoy exercise. IMHO, sweating is not fun. So, finding the motivation (plus the time) is a huge issue for me. While I know there is a benefit to doing any amount of exercise, I still find articles like this demotivating because they make me wonder if it's really worth all the effort. Report
An hour a day is not unreasonable but whoever did this survey - do they know how hard it is for a woman to find an hour a day for herself?
Which only leads me to say "We need to make US a priority girls!!!" Report
I know I should do more. It's hard to get started when you have pain all over. Report
as someone trying to lose weight, i aim for between 45-60 minutes 5-6x per week. that includes weights and flexibility. Report
Trying to find an hour a day is a real challenge for me. But maybe they are right. I am 52 years old and my weight has been stable in the low 140's for a year and I exercise 6-4x/week. Report
I am someone who is trying to lose weight, and i can do an hour+
of aerobic exercise plus taekwondo each day.
Well, kinda frustrating at first, 'cause it seems like there are days that I just can't fit in an hour!?! BUT, did I fit in an hour of TV? Well, there -- get on the treadmill, and you'll have that hour of exercise! I have to look at this as a motivator, not a roadblock. Report
I try to walk at lunch time, usually 15 minutes. After work I will go to my second job. Although I am on my feet and moving, it does not count as exercise. I get home about 10PM exhausted. The only other option is to hook the computer at work up to a bike contraption where you have to slowly pedal to provide electricity to make the computer going. Let's get a little real folks. Report
At my health level, one hour every day seems enormous just to maintain. I have started small, and aim for one hour plus most days. However, I started losing with just 20+ minutes a day, 4 days a week. There is information out there that weight loss can begin with any increase in activity, which I took to mean that a completely sedentary person would benefit from small increases. Reading this article resulted in increasing my activity goals, though. Report
How's THIS for moderate? I had been 50 pounds heavier than now. Not much of a commute to/from my job at that time, and I hadn't gotten into certain artistic pursuits yet. I did 1-1/2 hours of step aerobics and calisthenics per day 6 days a week. I did not diet at all. My weight WAS stable.

Is this the kind of results they mean? ;-)

[I certainly cannot do anywhere near as much exercise now as then. I am now post-menopausal, but I sure changed my program ... I'd even gone pescetarian for 9 months, now I am somewhat omnivorous, but I am always eating rabbit food ... !] Report
It all makes sense. And I know a lot of people, self-included, who will find that goal overwhelming if we do not already have a regular exercise routine. We can get into an 'all or nothing' mindset and then do nothing. For me I have to smart small, or I'll fizzle out pretty quickly. Right now it's 20 minutes of walking, 3-4 times a week. As that becomes a routine, and something I enjoy, it will build. But when someone tells me it's one hour or else... well, that won't work for me.

Congratulations to those of you who already have made a workout a non-negotiable part of your day! Report
I figured this out years ago (in my 20s) when I used to exercise 2-3 hours every night in order to lose weight - and it worked! And I was reminded of it when I joined SparkPeople and did their calculations for how much time I would need to exercise, and realized that the recommended 30 minutes a day-three times a week was not going to cut it if I wanted to drop the lbs. I'm a whole lot older now and exercising is harder with health issues keeping me from doing some specific exercises. But the weight I lost since joining SparkPeople has all reappeared with no effort while convalescing - so I am going to go back to exercising every night for at least an hour - even if it kills me! I was happy to see this study result. It confirmed my own beliefs. Report
I am 55 years old.209 lbs. All I can walk is 30 minutes. Report
i do 30 min a day and sometimes that is a struggle. but i aso go to the ymca 3 times a week were i can depending on my mood 1 hour or more depends if i add a class to my routine Report
There's no way I have that kind of time - an hour every day! I do strength train two days a week for an hour that's rather moderately intensive to intensive. I also run two to three days a week between 65-75 minutes. That's definitely vigorous. I've been able to maintain my goal weight doing it this way. I have a job and household obligations that take up a lot of my time. If I didn't have my job, I could do an hour a day. But something has to give. I need those days off just to attend to things that need to get done at home, including healthy menu planning, grocery shopping and prepping, cooking and cleaning up afterwards. I wish I had a maid and cook! Report
I agree that approximately an hour is correct. I don't always get there but I try. Report
Notice it says one hour of "moderate" activity. If you don't have an hour, just do something a little harder! Run instead of walk. Use an elliptical trainer. Ride a bike with the gears a little higher to really work your legs. Try a kickboxing DVD. Play sports! All of those things are VIGOROUS... and if you're healthy and an "old hand" at exercising, only vigorous exercise will really get your heart rate up there and your muscles working hard.

Honestly, I think calling "household chores" a workout is borderline LYING. Unless you're doing a major spring cleaning and scrubbing the floors on your hands and knees, cleaning your house is NOT workout. Walking burns so few calories, it's only a workout if you sustain it for more than 30 minutes, maintaining a speed of 3.5mph. (Of course, none of this quite applies to those who are obese/new to exercise, but for most folks, this holds true). Report
Yeah, I can believe it might require an hour a day to maintain weight if one eats a typical American diet with typical American portion sizes. (Also note: one's general tendency to "bodily restlessness" could skew "exercise need", as some people cannot really sit still for long periods of time.)

My family eats typical (smaller) Asian portion sizes and foods (home cooked, not that high-fat-high-sodium restaurant junk), almost never watches TV (which is an "exercise in sitting"), and we regularly walk our dogs (about 20 min at a time), walk or bike to nearby stores (weather permitting), etc. but not 60 min a day or even 7 days a week. My family is not overweight. (And I am "not so young" - I have a kid in college.)

Additionally, Europeans whom I know walk a LOT more than Americans do and take more (very handy) public transportation - and they are as thin as sticks: probably because of this, and likely also because of a different daily diet and smaller portions than most Americans.

However, if exercise helps people balance what they eat to maintain their weight- more power to them!

Exercise is good for you, and will help you live longer and retain body mobility into old age, factors which should not be ignored despite the more-trumpeted "need to keep weight down!" issues. Report
One hour a day seems to work for me. I'm not really looking to lose weight necessarily, but I've noticed my body changing in positive ways that make me feel really comfortable in my skin. Report
That's good to know. I do work out 1 hour now. I just have to get the meal plan together with the work out plan. Report
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