How Much Exercise Do You REALLY Need to Lose Weight?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/10/2013 6:00 AM   :  1237 comments   :  1,046,740 Views

New guidelines issued from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) state that 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week might not be enough. In 2001, ACSM recommended that overweight and obese adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to improve their health. 200 to 300 minutes per week was recommended for long-term weight loss. But will this amount of exercise really help you lose weight and keep it off?

New research shows that "between 150 and 250 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity is effective in preventing weight gain greater than 3% in most adults but will provide "only modest" weight loss." So ACSM has published new physical activity recommendations in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Overweight and obese individuals are more likely to lose weight and keep it off if they exercise for least 250 minutes per week. Exercising for more than 250 minutes per week has resulted in "significant" weight loss for these individuals.

So what does this mean? If you're trying to lose weight, 50 minutes of cardio exercise along with regular strength training might be what it takes to see the results you're hoping for.


What do you think? Does 50 minutes of exercise, 5 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

  • 1237
    I can say that when I upped my cardio and added weights the weight kept coming off. Now that I am in maintenance I still do a lot of exercise. At least 5 or usually 6 days/week I do a strong cardio workout for 40 - 45 mins PLUS I walk all day every day. I do strength training twice/week plus yoga. Now I wear a Nike Fuel band and that gets me moving for 5 mins/hour most hours when I'm awake. Burn close to 1200 cals/day. - 3/24/2015   9:51:38 PM
  • 1236
    I'm starting over....Again! Heavier than I've EVER been and eight months post baby. It's scary to put a number to it, but it's also a reality check. Is this realistic with a baby and a full time job? I'm sure it is...if I can stop making excuses :) - 3/16/2015   7:17:53 PM
  • PROPMAN1
    1235
    30 minutes/5x week is possible....50 highly unlikely unless i stop working and retire. - 3/5/2015   3:33:30 PM
  • 1234
    I think a lot of people will find this discouraging. If I golf 3 times a week, spring, summer and fall, that's 4 hours plus a day exercising. If on the other days I go for a 30 minute walk or do yardwork, or wash windows and other heavy housework, I think that is sufficient. Just keep active as much as you can. Cut out junk calories. Eat healthy, drink water and get quality sleep. The rest should follow. - 2/25/2015   9:52:22 PM
  • 1233
    Maybe when I retire I will have time to do this. - 2/25/2015   8:33:50 PM
  • BABYAJ25
    1232
    If your goal is to lose weight, doing cardio and strength training in my opinion is the way to go to reach your goal. I use Cathe Freidrich, which she has come a long way since the 1980's. She now has low impact High Intensity Interval Training, where you can do HiiT and it be gentle on your knees, hips, ect and she has pointers for people who are new to exercise. High Intensity Interval Training is something that is highly recommended by me. Maybe 3 cardio days of Hiit and 2 days of Strength Training. Cathe now has it to where you can pay only $20/month to be able to access a lot of her videos online by streaming. Find her on you tube, Cathe.com and try her out. She makes it so much fun and is a great motivator. Hopes this helps someone out there. :) - 2/25/2015   7:54:41 PM
  • PEAPLUM
    1231
    I joined a hiking/walking group and we get together and hike/walk at least 60 to 90 minutes walks, 3 to 4 days a week. I also go to the gym once a week with a trainer and go out with friends on walks when I can. Last year I was sedentary. Doing it with other people is key for me and I'm having FUN! My goal is to do a 20 mile hike in September and I'm hoping to be at my goal weight. - 2/25/2015   7:51:17 PM
  • 1230
    I started back to Spark at the beginning of Jan at 300lbs. I walk 3 miles(60 min) 5-6 mornings a week on the treadmill. I eat about 1500-1600 cal and have lost an average of 3 pounds a week (24lbs). For me the exercise is the key. I wake up at 5:00am just to get it done and granted I'm not a morning person. - 2/25/2015   6:57:50 PM
  • 1229
    I believe the best thing I have done is buy a fit bit and set a goal to get 10 000 steps at least 6 times a week and if I go over I am happy for that too. Everything that you do and no matter the time is an investment when you look at doing something good for all your body not just the scale. - 2/25/2015   3:20:05 PM
  • 1228
    80% of weight loss relates to your eating habits.
    20% of weight loss relates to your exercise. 30 minutes of exercise is fine as long as you eliminate junk food, sugar and processed carbs you will drop the weight. - 2/25/2015   3:13:47 PM
  • 1227
    50 min. of exercise did seem like a lot to begin with, but now, 6 yrs later, it doesn't seem like very much to me. Usually, I can workout for 120 + min. to even feel like I had a good workout. It is not easy at first but the more you do the better it feels to do it. - 2/25/2015   3:07:53 PM
  • 1226
    Completely discouraging. Wish I hadn't read this. - 2/25/2015   3:04:39 PM
  • 1225
    I work full-time, and am active in Church & Christian Motorcyclists Association, plus have 2 grandkids that I like to spend time with. I know I should try to get at least 50 minutes 5 days/week, but unless I give up something else I don't see it happening consistently. I usually get 30-40 mins 3-4 times/week. - 2/25/2015   2:23:46 PM
  • PROFESOTERIC
    1224
    Don't forget that even though you are not 'exercising' you are exercising. Walking around, doing housework, collecting the kids, doing the shopping, weeding the garden all count. You may not be exercising at a high intensity, but you are still burning those calories when you do anything which involves moving about. Of course, all this should be done in conjunction with a good diet. Just doing these two things will leave you feeling happier, fitter and looking good! - 2/25/2015   1:23:02 PM
  • 1223
    I lost weight without any exercise in fact found it easier. Depends on how much you want to eat. - 2/25/2015   1:04:27 PM
  • 1222
    I see my best weight loss when doing aerobic exercise 250 minutes a week, plus 90 minutes of strength training. On top of that, I'm walking at least 180 minutes a week and I'm fastidious about monitoring my caloric intake. So these findings are not surprising to me. It's tough work to get rid of excessive fat. - 2/25/2015   12:19:37 PM
  • 1221
    I aim for 60 minutes of cardio six days a week and 15 minutes of strength training 6 days a week. My days are very busy so this seems impossible, yet I get it done.

    I do 15 minutes of strength training after the children are at school in the morning and first thing in the morning on Saturdays. Then I complete 30 minutes of cardio about 11:30 am before lunch. I complete another 30 minutes of cardio after the children go to bed in the evening. - 2/25/2015   9:40:26 AM
  • 1220
    The findings reported in this article are consistent with my experience. I have only had noticeable weight loss when exercising 50-60 minutes per day at least 5 days per week. I haven't had success with fewer, longer workouts (e.g. intense weekend hike or snowshoeing) or more frequent, shorter duration workouts (e.g. 5 ten minutes walks each day). I can maintain weight loss at 30 minutes per weekday, but I can't achieve noticeable weight loss with that amount of exercise. Age probably plays a factor here. In my twenties, I could drop weight just by walking to and from work, which was just 15 minutes each way. In my forties, I couldn't even maintain my weight with that level of exercise. - 2/25/2015   9:23:14 AM
  • 1219
    Chicken or egg? People who are determined to log 50 minutes a day of exercise are also seemingly more likely to pay attention to other aspects of their weight loss, but slogging through the gym doesn't seem like a sustainable solution for MOST people. I agree with the previous poster who said that an active lifestyle is a far better choice; while I do go to the gym every day (for about 30 minutes) I see it as a supplement and I also try to get out to go hiking, attend outdoor events like festivals (lots of walking), jump rope, ride my bike, etc. It can't be a chore; it has to be natural. - 2/25/2015   8:25:07 AM
  • 1218
    I think the concept that people should set aside a time to exercise is faulty, exercise should be an all day project, walk more, climb more stairs, go out of your way to get more activity in your life. 50 minutes a day doing exercise is not going to help if you are a couch potato the rest of the day, go gardening when you get home, walk during your lunch, do yard work, go biking with the kids, swim, backback, or hike. Incorporating activity into your life is a more lasting habit then setting aside 30 or 50 minutes to do exercises. This kind of mentality is what is making America overweight, in the past people were more active and less overweight, now the fix is a grueling amount of "exercise" at a costly gym instead of going back to an active style of life. Our entertainment has all become inactive, we play on computers, watch TV, go to movies, play video games, instead of past activities of going to dances, playing ball with the neighbors, going to the playground, hiking in the woods, riding bikes, gardening, riding horses, sledding, skiing. Outside activities are even more static, you ride a snowmobile or ride a ATV, instead of snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hiking or backpacking. Everyone needs to figure out what they can do to lose weight, I have lost 63 lbs so far and never stepped into a gym, or exercised to a video or gone to a exercise class. Instead I do old fashioned exercise like gardening, shoveling out manure, throwing hay, hiking my property, walking, putting away 50 sacks of grain, and doing morning and evening chores. When at work I strive to get a lot of walking in, going long ways around, walking at break and lunches. It works for me. - 2/25/2015   8:17:45 AM
  • 1217
    It really does make a difference... I lost 20 lbs in the first six months of working out 30-40 minutes a day... Once I read this blog at the beginning of September I started working out fifty minutes a day and lost twenty more lbs in the next three months. They are right.

    Also, I know what it's like to be incredibly busy, but I decided that my health and exercise are non-negotiables... I will work out before doing anything else I want to do, even if I'm exhausted.

    Excuses, for me, are what made me gain the weight in the first place. Therefore the excuses had to stop for the weight to come off. Only fifteen more pounds to go! - 2/25/2015   7:54:49 AM
  • 1216
    I think this seems unrealistic. I struggle to squeeze my 20 or 30 minutes of Zumba (or walking) in a day. Between physical limitations (fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease in my c-spine), and other responsibilities (kids, hour each way commute, cooking/preparing meals, homework (mine and theirs), and spending time with my boyfriend) where does one squeeze this in with out giving up sleep, or other things that are important to my phsyical or mental health. - 2/25/2015   7:38:25 AM
  • 1215
    I generally workout 30 - 40 minutes, five days a week. I'm not sure if working out more than that would help me lose weight any faster. I lose about 1 to 1.5 pounds a week. - 2/25/2015   7:08:56 AM
  • 1214
    I find that to lose weight I need to do about 90 mins of cardio a day in addition to strength training 3-4 days a week. So these results do not surprise me. Especially when you consider that the study says 50 mins for overweight and obese individuals. I notice that they don't say how many minutes someone with a normal BMI needs to do to lose weight. My guess is its more in-line with 75-90 mins a day. - 2/25/2015   5:19:11 AM
  • 1213
    I hope those "10 minute sessions add up" articles are right, because otherwise, the above article is rather discouraging, esp. if you have any health limitations already.
    - 2/25/2015   3:01:00 AM
  • 1212
    I'd like to be able to do this much everyday but I have other hobbies too. Lol.

    Seriously though, I don't mind busting my butt and working out but I also have a lot of other things to do. I think SP has it right by encouraging people to get at least 10 minutes in a day. - 2/23/2015   10:54:44 PM
  • 1211
    50 minutes is doable. I'm working my way up there. - 2/23/2015   4:52:51 PM
  • 1210
    I've found that I need to exercise at least 45 min per day to lose weight coupled with a calorie reduction. - 2/23/2015   2:31:33 PM
  • 1209
    I think it would be easier to look at it this way: There are 24 hours in each day; reserve 8 hours for sleep; 1 hour to get ready; 8 hours for work; 3 hours for meals; 1 hour for commuting, which leaves 3 hours to use for other activity. In that perspective, 1 hour for exercise doesn't seem too far out of reach. This will have to be tweaked for each person's own schedule but for me, it helps to make the goal not seem so far out of reach. - 2/23/2015   11:28:34 AM
  • 1208
    This sounds like something that I can work my way up to. I am still recovering from cervical / spinal surgery so my progress will be slow. - 2/23/2015   8:08:39 AM
  • 1207
    Definitely something to think about. I walk for 90 minutes a day 7 days a week but my weight loss has slowed down. So I don't know if that means I need to speed it up a bit or throw some other form of exercise in the mix - 2/14/2015   3:48:06 PM
  • 1206
    I'm just starting out and this gives me something to shoot for. Right now I can't do 50 min but I will get there! - 1/19/2015   2:46:20 PM
  • 1205
    It sounds like a lot until I realize that I do more than that. Maintenance for me has meant more exercise and not just because experts tell me too. I actually like it! Most days I get at leat 60 minutes of moderate to aggressive aerobic exercise. Strength train twice/week. Yoga at least once/week.
    And I've kept off 80 pounds for more than a year. - 1/11/2015   7:35:47 AM
  • 1204
    articles like these do way more damage than good - 1/3/2015   3:45:23 PM
  • 1203
    Pretty much what I do. However, if you are just starting to exercise this can discourage many because it would be impossible. Exercise is all about movement. Your fitness level at first may only allow you to do 10 minutes a day or less for 3 to 5 days. It is important to start off where you can and increase each week until you have increased your fitness level to do what you really need to be doing. The main goal is to get moving consistently so you want to do more. I find exercising addictive once you get into a routine. Better to start off slow and build each week then to go full throttle and break down and quit. - 12/30/2014   3:34:50 PM
  • 1202
    This doesn't surprise me. It takes a lot of exercise to burn calories.
    It sounds like a lot of time, but broken into smaller units throughout the day - two 30-minute sessions, or 4 15-minute sessions is a lot less daunting. Currently I'm doing a 50 minute Jazzercise session 5 days a week. I've added another 30 minutes walking in the afternoon. So far, I've lost 25 lbs in 5 months. Not bad! - 12/29/2014   5:09:34 PM
  • 1201
    I think that most people would have a hard time fitting that into a normal life. I mean, almost an hour a day is tough. And that's a 90 minute workout 3 times a week. I would think that it would be WAY too much for someone just starting, but it's a good goal to work towards. - 12/29/2014   1:05:12 PM
  • 1200
    I didn't hear this info during my weight loss, but I did exercise 60 minutes, five or six times a week (300-360 min.) while I was losing. Now that I'm maintaining, I exercise 60 minutes, four times a week (240 min.). That's pretty close to the recommendations. - 12/29/2014   12:42:39 PM
  • 1199
    I've heard that 80% of weight loss starts in the kitchen and the other 20% is the gym. 50 minutes 5x a week is something to work up to and I find that if I am doing something I enjoy (like Zumba) it is easier to get in a workout. - 12/29/2014   8:43:41 AM
  • 1198
    The important exercise to lose weight is pushing away from the table. But, to keep it off and for general fitness into old age strength, endurance and flexibility exercises are important and can really help one's mind, too. It's important for those of us less physically able than others to find activities we can do and enjoy. Fifty minutes a day right away is likely impossible for non-exercisers but 5 is possible for everyone. I'm more of a 50 minute a week exerciser at the moment but aspire to do the healthy thing and get in 50-60 minutes a day. - 12/28/2014   11:55:59 PM
  • 1014JULES
    1197
    50 minutes of exercise per day sounds unrealistic. Personally I have had a lot of success exercising for 30-45 minutes 5 days a week. 2 workouts weight training & 3 some form of cardio. Granted I haven't seen results quickly, but I feel good. Healthy foods & serving sizes are also important. Another important factor is location of the fitness center you use. I changed to one that is closer to work & home, making it easier to actually get there! Good luck to you all on your quest for health! - 12/28/2014   10:12:24 PM
  • 1196
    This isn't even close to being a realistic goal for most. 50 minutes a day? Um... no. Most people are way, way too busy to be able to integrate 50 minutes of hard exercise into their daily routines, and then there are some, like me, who battle chronic pain and/or illness. When you are nauseated almost 24/7; when you are awake just about half the night, in tears because your joints/muscles are so, incredibly painful that you want to damn near kill yourself... yeah, no... 50 minutes of hard exercise would land me in a hospital.

    Find what works for YOU, and then do it! These "studies" are (often) very de-motivational.

    The last time I lost 55 pounds, in under 6 months, know what I was doing? 30 minutes of cardio, 6 days a week; this was in conjunction with eating 1700 - 1900 cals a day, and I didn't freak out over gluten or carbs. I didn't take any sort of helper pills, either. I just ate cleanly and worked out as best I could and hey, it worked. Stop telling people they have to do an hour's worth of hard exercise, just about every day or they're screwed. It tends to put some of us into a "why bother, then?" funk. - 12/28/2014   6:56:14 PM
  • 1195
    Every decade seems to have been a different scenario for me. I could map it out, even from early childhood but will be brief here and save the topic for a blog. Each part of my life has brought changes to my physical ability and effort. Earliest on there was no effort. I did it all, all day long, every day. So did mist of us. If I could draw a graph of my exercise history it would be very telling and representative of the stages if my life.
    Now I am faced with a new scene and a whole lot of change. It is a dynamic scenario..
    50 minutes. OK. Sounds fine. But it is simplistic & not for all,
    Find your personal program based on you.
    Period.
    Upping your effort --- wonderful, but be realistic and do what is possible considering your health , age, level of injury, and time.
    Strike that balance, and push a little when you are able...
    Track ??? Yes, yes, yes... But don't stick a number on your cardio.
    If you can talk to a trainer one on one and do it your way ! - 12/20/2014   11:37:29 AM
  • 1194
    Every decade seems to have been a different scenario for me. I could map it out, even from early childhood but will be brief here and save the topic for a blog. Each part of my life has brought changes to my physical ability and effort. Earliest on there was no effort. I did it all, all day long, every day. So did mist of us. If I could draw a graph of my exercise history it would be very telling and representative of the stages if my life.
    Now I am faced with a new scene and a whole lot of change. It is a dynamic scenario..
    50 minutes. OK. Sounds fine. But it is simplistic & not for all,
    Find your personal program based on you.
    Period.
    Upping your effort --- wonderful, but be realistic and do what is possible considering your health , age, level of injury, and time.
    Strike that balance, and push a little when you are able...
    Track ??? Yes, yes, yes... But don't stick a number on your cardio.
    If you can talk to a trainer one on one and do it your way ! - 12/20/2014   11:37:29 AM
  • 1193
    Every decade seems to have been a different scenario for me. I could map it out, even from early childhood but will be brief here and save the topic for a blog. Each part of my life has brought changes to my physical ability and effort. Earliest on there was no effort. I did it all, all day long, every day. So did mist of us. If I could draw a graph of my exercise history it would be very telling and representative of the stages if my life.
    Now I am faced with a new scene and a whole lot of change. It is a dynamic scenario..
    50 minutes. OK. Sounds fine. But it is simplistic & not for all,
    Find your personal program based on you.
    Period.
    Upping your effort --- wonderful, but be realistic and do what is possible considering your health , age, level of injury, and time.
    Strike that balance, and push a little when you are able...
    Track ??? Yes, yes, yes... But don't stick a number on your cardio.
    If you can talk to a trainer one on one and do it your way ! - 12/20/2014   11:37:26 AM
  • 1192
    I've lost significant amounts of weight without exercising in the past (nearly 200 pounds). However, that was predicated by sweeping changes in my diet and stealth like portion control and the elimination of mindless eating. Nevertheless, exercise has made a significant impact in moving forward and ridding my body of what remains.

    I exercise seven days per week with the premise that I didn't take time off during my self-destructive activities, nor should I reduce the positive steps I'm taking in its correction. As a result I'm developing an active lifestyle and find my appetite is much lower and I'm not inclined to consume things that will take the full day to burn off!

    Having said this, there's also the reality that most people aren't eating a diet rich in foods that aren't very caloric in their makeup. I'm presently wholly organic and eat whole foods whenever possible. I cook and bake everything. Knowing what goes into my meals allows me to alleviate most the additives that prepackaged goods contain. I average between 2-3 pounds per week of weight loss as a result.

    Long term weight loss is difficult to maintain when you haven't mastered portion control, alleviated emotional eating (if applicable), and recalibrated your thinking about food, your body, and the realities that its care-taking is wholly yours to maintain. - 11/22/2014   8:02:39 AM
  • 1191
    I'm lucky if I can do 2-3 minutes at a time. There is no way in hell I could do 50 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Not happening. This kind of exercise prescription is only destined to make the people who need it most say "screw that... why bother?" How is someone who has 100+ pounds to lose supposed to be able to sustain this kind of regimen? If I exercise, it'll be for better health, not weight loss. I've come to realize that it really doesn't matter what you weigh as long as you're fit. And fitness has nothing to do with weight.

    Edit: I'd like to add that they're claiming it requires this much cardio a week to lose weight (they say "in addition to strength training", but the focus is obviously on cardio here). But I'll submit that I feel strength training is FAR superior to cardio for losing weight. Worry about your cardiovascular health after you've lost some weight already. When you're trying to lose 50, 100, 200 pounds, what you need to build is muscle so you continuously burn more fat even while at rest. Start with as much weight as you can lift without injury. Then keep upping that amount. When I've focused more on building muscle than on walking or other cardio, I've lost weight a lot faster. - 11/14/2014   10:09:47 PM
  • IRON-AND-SILK
    1190
    For someone who's only starting to get back to a healthier and more active lifestyle, 50 minutes/5 days/1 week is too much. That seems guaranteed to make you fail and give up because it's just too high a number to hit consistently. For a perfectionist beginner like me, small achievable goals that build up over time are key. I need to be able to hit that number, get to that goal. And as I become stronger, fitter, healthier, the goals level up with me. So maybe in a couple of months, when the habit of regular exercise and healthy eating has been ingrained in me, my weekly goal can go as high as this new research is recommending. It might have good scientific basis, but that doesn't mean it will work for everyone. It's certainly too much for me too soon. - 11/6/2014   2:50:15 AM
  • 1189
    At this time in my life, 50 min 5x/week is a bit much. Perhaps 2-3 days are doable with that amount, and that depends on days off and any holidays that fall in the week. During the work week, I aim for 10-30 min (time being a factor), weekends and/or days off, I shoot for 30-60 min. I used to be an all or nothing, but I get in what I can get in. Something is better than nothing.

    Now if my workplace would allow a Treadmill desk, I'd be one happy camper; but I don't see that happening. - 11/3/2014   12:38:26 PM
  • RRJEHS
    1188
    I've always tended towards a couch-potato lifestyle in addition to a seriously sedentary office job. As a result, I find that I need to exercise at least 60 minutes each and every day. My exercise of choice is the recumbant bike. I can still be semi couch potato-like yet burn through 400-500 calories with fairly aggressive pedaling (avg. 15 mph) in a 30 minute session, all while watching my favorite tv shows! Of course, I've also re-swizzled my calorie intake to under 1500 per day. This has resulted in an 80 lb. weight loss in 6 months, and still going down a pound or two a week. My Fitbit tells me I'm walking an average between 1.5 to 2 miles per day, mainly through parking in lots' far corners and periodically walking the length of my office building during the day. Hardly 10,000 steps, but still a nice addition to the recumbant bike routine. I don't mind walking to get somewhere, but walking for walking's sake bores the tears out of me. - 10/23/2014   10:36:28 AM

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