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How Much Exercise Do You REALLY Need to Lose Weight?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/10/2013 6:00 AM   :  1117 comments   :  739,869 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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  • 1067
    wow daunting is right!! I am a sedentary 62 yr old female with an arthritic knee. I have never been "into" exercise, and am a yo yo dieter. Yesterday I started back with SP to try and lose ten pounds and keep it off. Today I randomly decided to hop on our fancy schmancy treadmill. Because of my work hours, my fitness level (nil) and general motivation, I was proud to accomplish 30 min of walking at 2.8 mph without collapsing. Grabbed a bottle of water which I hate drinking, sat down at the computer to check out some SP articles. And I see this one~makes me feel like my little baby step goal of doing this walking thing 3x/wk is pointless. I really just want to bring my cholesterol and triglycerides down, and maybe help boost my eating plan. But the recommendations are so "out there" for most normal people with lives. - 1/8/2014   2:24:17 PM
  • 1066
    I try to walk 45-75 minutes 4-6 days a week.I walk at least 2 1/2 miles a day. Sometimes I slack off if my sister doesn't push me.During the summer she would come over and drag me out of bed at the crack of dawn(due to Southern Calif. heat)and we would walk.Now that it is winter ,we walk at 8:00.I need to lose almost a hundred pounds.The weight is coming off slowly.I'm almost 65 plus I have two artificial hip joints.Climbing hills and long walks make my joints hurt. I do it anyway because I want to be healthy and active during my retirement years. - 1/8/2014   1:41:07 PM
  • 1065
    Right now I am at 45 minutes 5 days a week. I do a little bit of strength training while I am doing some cardio too. I have lost about 10 pounds slowly but, I am not trying to lose at a fast pace because I want to keep it off. If it takes me 6 months to get 40 pounds off then so be it. When I get it off I want to make sure that it stays off. Besides being a 50 + female with medical problems and arthritis in the joints I think that I am doing good. My goal is to keep active so that I can hike this spring and get in the pool this summer. - 1/8/2014   1:10:07 PM
  • 1064
    I lost a lot of weight when I exercised for at least an hour everyday, but the weight came back on when I couldn't keep it up.

    I think that it's far better to create an exercise routine that you enjoy and that fits well with your life. To me the most important thing is to make permanent lifestyle changes, not ones that you think will help you lose the weight quicker. - 1/8/2014   12:10:03 PM
  • 1063
    I think this is completely unrealistic. Like many members have said, it depends on where you are in your life, physically, mentally, & time wise. I love to exercise but don't have much time at all to do it. I work full time, I have two little kids (4 & 1), and I have to do most of their caretaking since my hubby works 50 hours a week. I know I'm not the only one in this boat. I'm lucky if I get 30 minutes to myself in one week. The way I manage is to go to Zumba on saturday mornings (have babies watched) & try to go to gym on my lunch break. I am fortunate that I work two blocks away from my gym. But I only have an hour lunch! It is very difficult in this busy life. I think the previous notion of 30 minutes, 3-5 times a week is more realistic for people like myself. Someone said earlier that you should do what works for you and I totally agree! I have friends who don't have kids, work part-time, and have the time to be very active. That works for them. I'm constantly trying to figure out a way to get more active, lol. I feel like since my youngest is now 1yr old, I'm getting the hang of balancing things. Marriage takes effort, eating healthy takes effort, being a happy person takes effort, BEING healthy takes effort...for me it's a question of how to unite all those & be complete. :) I'm old enough (33) to realize that I will do what works for me & not let anything make me feel bad, but I think articles like this can greatly discourage people who more volnerable you know??? - 1/8/2014   11:49:02 AM
  • 1062
    I think the time can be daunting to beginners and can be eased into as fitness level increases. We can find time to move. There are many time stealing things in our lives today that are meant to help us but crowd out good things. Limiting or changing how we do these things could be the difference. Limit TV or exercise while watching. Keep social networking/gaming to a specific time limit. I'm trying to turn my sedentary habits into active ones. I'm at 30 min, 5x a week with short strength training sessions. I'm losing weight right now but foresee my body becoming more efficient and the need for more workout time. - 1/8/2014   11:32:45 AM
  • 1061
    At this point, I'm losing 2 lbs per week (sometimes a bit less) by 45 min 3x per week on the treadmill. It seems for me that diet is key. I've seen it written many times that it's 80% nutrition, 20% fitness in the weight loss / maintain game. - 1/8/2014   11:26:20 AM
  • 1060
    I currently aim for 70 minutes 6 days a week, and I meet that most weeks. I include a total of about 70 minutes weekly weight training in that amount. It is tough to do and I have to plan and work at it. I don't have small children, but I work about 48 hours weekly. One thing that helps is being a one-car family, so I often walk to and/or from work, and that helps. I really think we Americans need to think outside the box in terms of transportation, and that might lead to some shrinking waistlines. - 1/8/2014   11:23:18 AM
  • 1059
    I routinely do anywhere from 85 min. to 110 min. at least 5 days a week. When I first started this journey I weighed 325 lbs. maybe more, I didn't have a scale that weighed me. My exercise started by walking to the end of the driveway increasing by a couple of steps each day. Believe me my sister dragged me kicking and screaming the whole way! We took baby steps. After a few months we had been able to increase that to a mile. We finally joined a gym. Besides the machines we found strength training. I have lost 160 lbs with SparkPeople following their suggestions and guidelines. I track nutrition and fitness daily. I have been at this weight since at least 2011 and I have been able to do this through diet and exercise. I belong to the At Goal and Maintaining and Transitioning to Maintenance Team and intend to beat the odds. I was fat my whole life from infancy until just after I turned 58 when I found spark people and turned my life around.
    So, the answer to that question is yes I think it is in line with what I do now. You have to remember just beginning a new program like Sparkpeople always say start with baby steps and increase from there and DO things you enjoy doing to keep you coming back for more. For me, if I can only go to the gym (cold weather) 85 min to 110 min is my norm to maintain.
    If I had known that in the beginning I might not have started this journey. However, those baby steps are what got me hooked! - 1/8/2014   9:52:44 AM
  • 1058
    There is not enough hours in the day for me to accomplish this, unless they count cumulative activity minutes...I didn't see that addressed in the article. - 1/8/2014   9:47:30 AM
  • EN10011
    This is so NOT reasonable for busy people!
    LEt's count- 10 hours at work, 1.5 hours of commute,1.5 hour to get ready and get the kids ready in the morning, 1 hour for cooking and eating dinner, 2 hours for homework and play with kids. This leaves 8 hours for sleep, extracurricular kids activities, exercise, household chores, shopping....
    People who are retired, have grown kids or do not work full time jobs may be able to do it. I can barely find 20 minutes for exercise on weekdays.
    And for people who say that they sit on the couch to watch a show for an hour, I have not watched TV in more than three years other than at the gym on the treadmill. - 1/8/2014   9:39:38 AM
  • 1056
    I totally agree. When I increased from 30 minutes 5 times a week (which I did for years) to 60 minutes 6 times a week it made a huge difference. I finally could get to the weight I want to be. - 1/8/2014   9:00:00 AM
  • 1055
    I usually take 5 spin classes (two back to back on Saturday) per week and weights every day I spin (or do elliptical). I'm still working hard at dieting (1500 - 2000 cals per day). I find that when I don't get to the gym with that amount of regularity (or drift over my calories), that I can gain weight easily. - 1/8/2014   8:44:00 AM
  • 1054
    I aspire to being able to do this. It's not that I physically can't, it's that mentally I don't yet have the motivation. Monday evening I was on the treadmill (mostly walking but running for a ten-minute burst) for fifty minutes. Yesterday the treadmill decided to break so I had to pop in Turbo Fire and managed to blunder my way through Day 1. - 1/8/2014   8:32:42 AM
  • 1053
    Yesterday there was an article about a study that showed that people who exercised for 30 minutes/day lost more weight over time than people who exercised 60 minutes/day. I think that all of us need to figure out what works best for us and gives us results that we're comfortable with. Comfortable with, not necessarily want. For instance, I'm sure we'd all like to lose at least 2-3 lbs/week consistently, but if all your body will give you is a 1lb/week no matter what you do, then you should be comfortable with that and keep working towards your goal. - 1/8/2014   7:56:25 AM
  • 1052
    I think the recommendations are correct. But when you are overweight and in active going from doing no exercise to trying to due 250 minutes a week you are setting people up to fail. That is why I think I have stuck with sparkpeople that make it seem achievable by telling you to pick small goals and get 10 minutes of activity into your day. - 1/8/2014   7:25:07 AM
  • 1051
    I started exercising 30 minutes 3x a week. As I lost weight I found I needed to increase that to continue to lose weight. I now do at least 60 minutes 7 days a week. - 1/8/2014   5:49:54 AM
  • 1050
    My impression is that many people get very little to no exercise. I used to be one of them, then about two years ago I started taking bike rides.
    For those who are not used to exercising to start doing 50 minutes per day or 250 minutes per week may be very hard. I think it's best to advise people to start by doing 10 minutes every day. Once they start they may keep going. It worked that way for me.
    I now do 40 minutes most days, of biking and walking on top of my usual activities like walking the dog and cleaning the house and biking small stretches for errands.
    Beside that I do yoga, stretching mostly, but I don't really count that as exercise.
    - 1/8/2014   5:09:42 AM
  • 1049
    I started off slow going from a sedentary lifestyle. In the beginning was aiming for about an hour a week of exercise. 4 months later and now I am aiming for an hour a day or more. It is broken up over the course of the day and by starting slow and finding my own groove instead of jumping into the deep end right away it has become a habit and one I look forward too. On the evening walk both my boyfriend and I walk together. Instead of sitting on porch and chilling and chatting we now do it while walking. I have lost 20 lbs since September and am comfortable with that pace. Find what you enjoy then it is not a chore to exercise. - 1/8/2014   12:44:53 AM
    Exercise is a good way to loose the weight, But if you are not active or not intrested in doing the exercise then Weight loss surgery is the best and most effective option to reduce the weight. - 1/6/2014   11:43:02 PM
  • 1047
    I too think it depends on the person and the situation. However, keep in mind that this recommendation was for overweight and obese individuals looking to lose weight and keep it off. So the "enough" part comes from whether or not an overweight or obese person is doing enough exercise not just to lose, but to keep off the weight they've lost. If you are on the lower side of overweight, or if you're already having success with maintaining a weight that is healthy and comfortable for you, it's probably best to keep doing what you're doing. However, if you are overweight or obese this recommendation is designed to help you reach a healthy weight and stay there. And also, perhaps this info isn't for everyone. If you're doing fine with your current plan stick to it. But if you've found that your current plan has put you in a rut or that you're plateauing and it's not getting better, you might want to consider upping your game to get over the hump.

    I personally don't see what the big deal is about 30 minutes vs. 50 minutes. It's only an additional 20 minutes. You can play a few fun fitness-based games on a game console if you have one (like Wii Fit or Zumba on the Xbox or something similar) and rack up the minutes in no time. Or you can split your time and do 25 minutes of 1 type of cardio-based workout (like following along with a DVD) and 25 minutes of another type (like walking outside or on the treadmill) and achieve the same goal. Then just remember to add in a few extra minute for strength training (maybe follow a 10-minute strength training video or DVD after your cardio session, as it's generally best to do strength training after cardio if on the same days) and you're all set.

    Like someone said, we sit on the couch or in the bed and watch an hour-long show without any problems. Why not have as much dedication for improving your health? If you don't have equipment, games etc. at home to make it easier, research exercises you can do using just your body and do them during commercial breaks. SP has plenty of info on exercises and strength training routines you can do using just your body weight as resistance.

    Let's be's your health. Pay half as much attention to it as you do to things that don't really matter (like other "fit" people playing sports, TV shows, happy hour etc.) and you'll find that you won't even need to worry about articles and "new rules" like this. - 12/12/2013   4:42:38 PM
    I manage a minimum 550 minutes sometimes I double it 6 days a week. I am losing more inches than pounds but I'm okay with it for now, because I feel great!! - 12/1/2013   6:13:14 PM
  • 1045
    This is a new rule for me because I usually do 45 mins. 3 days and week. I have a very busy daily schedule except on the weekend, so I am going to challenge myself to increase my work out. Thanks for the information! - 11/24/2013   2:49:36 PM
    There are so many benefits to physical activity. Whether you can do five minutes or fifty minutes a day - it's all good. Either way, the benefits in movement are there. Weight loss doesn't have to be the endgame here. Learning to enjoy movement is enough. - 11/6/2013   11:13:20 PM
    Of course, it doesn't have to be 50 minutes five times a week. You could do two 20 minute workouts a day, and be well over the 250 minute mark. Multiple short workouts are just as effective as single longer sessions. You don't have to dedicate an hour a day to the gym - you could do a 20 minute video in the morning, take a walk during your lunch break, and do something fun in the evening (play tennis, take a dip in the pool, play frisbee with the dog) and you'll have exceeded the recommendations. I think for most people, unless you have a reason to have specific athletic goals, it's more important to have an active lifestyle than to "work out", per se. - 11/6/2013   7:01:01 PM
  • 1042
    That doesn't sound like too much--I regularly get 500 minutes in a week without even trying too hard. This is a minimum for me, just for maintenance and general health. - 11/6/2013   6:51:55 PM
  • 1041
    Well, yes and no. I prefer thinking of it as 300 minutes per week. It's less stressful to think of it that way for me. If you have a bad fitness day on Wednesday, you can make up for it by a long bike ride on Saturday and not feel like you've devastated your goals. - 11/6/2013   4:34:06 PM
  • 1040
    I do around 45 mins of exercise 5 days a week, but that usually includes strength training. Exercise alone to lose weight is going to make weight loss really slow or non existent. It's a combo of both exercise and watching what you eat. I don't think that people HAVE to exercise 50 mins a day 5 days a week to lose weight. I believe (and what works for me) that focusing more on calories in vs calories out than the amount of exercise you do. I don't think that I need 50 mins 5 times a week of pure cardio then adding strength on top of that to lose weight. However, doing all that exercise would definitely make me lose weight faster IF it didn't result in me being super hungry and eating more to compensate for all the extra exercise. - 11/6/2013   1:03:29 PM
    Exercise and calorie intake are both important to lose weight. I have lost 58 lbs since July by walking, riding the recumbent bike and watching my calorie intake and I'm 65 yrs. old. You can't expect to lose if you don't watch your intake. Weight loss can only be expected when your calorie intake is less than your calorie burn. - 11/6/2013   10:41:12 AM
  • 1038
    I totally agree with VIGILANTONE. Except I don't do strength training at all! 8( - 11/6/2013   10:35:43 AM
  • 1037
    Some days this is harder than others, but I do what I can and started slow. Being more than 100 lbs overweight I had to start slow. Did 1 song of Just Dance for WII with my daughter a night, then went to 2 and 3 songs. Now I'm doing a 45 minute aerobic video 5 days a week. (Glad I plan 5 days and not 7 because if there are any errands to run during the week I just don't have time, so the weekend comes in handy). If you start slow and push yourself it is amazing what you can accomplish. - 11/6/2013   9:44:35 AM
  • 1036
    Goal weight is just a number, being healthy and fit is more important to me. I do at least 60 minutes of moderate cardio 6 times a week and add 20-30 minutes of strength training 3 times a week. The cardio is nothing for me to get in but I struggle with myself to do that strength training....I loath it...!! But, I know I have to get it in there so I bite the bullet and just do it. I have found that if I do LESS cardio and MORE strength training my weight drops more....go figure....I enjoy the cardio though and feel I've missed something when I don't get it in each day. - 11/6/2013   9:37:07 AM
  • 1035
    No, not really , 50 minutes is less time then a favorite TV show . If you have 60 minutes to watch a show. Why is it so difficult to give yourself 50 minutes of good health. Those fifty minutes are additional to everyday activities that our bodies have become adjusted too. So to lose one must exercise - that's bottom line. but everyone is different - One size does not fit all - so for me I 120 minutes a day but I am training for a long term goal. - 11/6/2013   9:27:52 AM
  • 1034
    These things can be so complicated. Yesterday there was an article here regarding eating carefully being more important than large amounts of exercise. Where do other Sparkers make that line? I have great problems getting myself to exercise and I KNOW that if I resolve to up my limit of 20-30 mins a day, I'll end up throwing in the towel altogether. Sorry to sound so negative but as I have found a way to lose weight (altho very slowly and rather erratically) by careful eating and minimal exercise I can only hope that if I continue as I am, I will eventually reach my goal. If not, I'll have to think again.
    Have to add that I'm saving this article to refer to when and if I need it. - 11/6/2013   9:23:04 AM
  • 1033
    These things can be so complicated. Yesterday there was an article here regarding eating carefully being more important than large amounts of exercise. Where do other Sparkers make that line? I have great problems getting myself to exercise and I KNOW that if I resolve to up my limit of 20-30 mins a day, I'll end up throwing in the towel altogether. Sorry to sound so negative but as I have found a way to lose weight (altho very slowly and rather erratically) by careful eating and minimal exercise I can only hope that if I continue as I am, I will eventually reach my goal. If not, I'll have to think again.
    Have to add that I'm saving this article to refer to when and if I need it. - 11/6/2013   9:23:03 AM
  • 1032
    I had to up my routine to about half hour to 45 minutes of heavy weight lifting and about 45 minutes of moderate intensity cardio to keep seeing results. Getting the weight off has been like a second job but it has been well worth it. - 10/28/2013   12:04:23 AM
  • 1031
    I think it depends on the person and the situation. I'm currently in college and one of the courses for my major is musical theatre dance which equates to an hour of heavy dancing twice a week. Add walking around campus twice a week and that's easily 2 to 3 miles of walking twice a week (about 80 minutes a week according to the SP tracker). I also take a fencing course once a week so there's another 60 minutes. All that adds up to 260 minutes a week without even going to the gym! I do make it a point to get in some strength training weekly which adds more time. But that's me, my family already thinks I'm nuts and for any of them 30 minutes 3 times a week is a lot. So like I said, I think it depends on the person and their situation. - 10/14/2013   11:28:45 AM
  • 1030
    Who cares, just move! - 10/11/2013   11:39:49 PM
  • 1029
    I don't see how they get their numbers. A lot of whether you loose or maintain depends on what you eat. - 9/12/2013   10:18:27 PM
    I've just started doing a 30 minute Wii Fitness Coach workout in the mornings five days a week and going for a 40ish minute walk in the evenings almost every day. I'm hoping it helps, but it's too early to tell. - 9/3/2013   1:23:42 PM
    I walk to work w/ a ten pound back pack up a steep hill about 1,5 miles . - 7/31/2013   2:10:22 PM
    I'm 67 and have always exercised a lot. I play tennis three times a week, for two hours each time and walk for an hour every day. On the days when I don't play tennis, I walk for two hours - an hour in the morning, an hour in the evening. I garden as well, mostly weeding and clean my car - washing, waxing, etc, plus housework - 7/21/2013   11:15:17 PM
  • 1025
    It does seem like a lot! However, since I started working out everyday when ever I have a free moment. Those minutes add up quick! My fitness tracker goals are surpassed by a lot each week. Playing with my kids, running, walking, dancing, strength training, stretching, cleaning, and other various activities and exercises. I may have just started, but I feel a difference already! - 7/12/2013   11:32:15 AM
    Exercises are very helpful to reduce the weight but make sure we are getting proper diet with exercises. We can also add yoga in daily exercises schedule. Yoga is very beneficial to become fit and slim. A person can try following steps to burn fat like wind-Releasing Pose, Cobra Pose, Bow Pose, Side-Stretch Pose, and Warrior I Pose. More info visit at - 7/5/2013   11:51:47 AM
  • 1023
    i think it seems like a lot until you actually start doing it. i did sparkpeople's 28-day bootcamp challenge, and one of the weekly goals was to try and boost your regular workout - either by increasing the time, frequency, or intensity. im done with the challenge, but i keep that in the back of my mind now, and whenever i feel like i'm done with a workout, i try and tack on another 10 minutes - even if its just taking a light walk. my fitness minutes keep going up every week and it honestly doesnt feel like too much - im averaging about 220 minutes/week right now.

    and @THEGRAPEAPE123 - youre at your physical peak! obviously, you want to ease into exercise if you dont do it normally, but your body can handle a lot more at that age than some of us older folk. im pretty much the same height and weight as you are, plus ten years. as much as im enjoying exercise, its definitely not as easy as it once was - i can feel it in my knees and back. take advantage of your youth! - 7/2/2013   11:44:57 AM
  • TARA513
    I started working out for 30 minutes 5 days a week April 8th 2013...with that I cut my calorie intake to 1200 calories a day and i have seen amazing results! I now weigh 168.8!! I was at 5'3'' and 189lbs when i started :) and i have never felt better...I don't know why i let myself go in the first place! Exercise is hard work especially the first 2 wks but after that i felt so accomplished!! - 7/2/2013   7:56:50 AM
    I need advice. I'm seventeen and at 5'3 very overweight (180) for my height. I really want to make a turn for the better, and need advice on how much exercise would be right for me. I'm sure I could do what the article is suggesting if I put my mind to it, but I don't know how healthy it would be. Any advice is really appreciated, especially from those who take me seriously. Thanks in advanced. - 6/30/2013   4:08:11 PM
  • WRIGHTN221
    It works for me! I'm 47 and I work out 90, 6 days a week in the early a.m. When I was younger, an hour was suffice but not anymore! I do a lot of interval training as well which has helped me burn my belly fat. I learned years ago that some need 60 and some 90 and since I'm older, 90 is what I need! - 6/26/2013   1:21:37 PM
  • 1019
    I burn 200 calories through exercise and consume 1200 calories every day. I don't know what it is, but this combination seems to be working for me. I've steadily lost every week since I've begun doing this. I consistently lose 1-2 lbs every week - 15 lbs so far! I'm only a few days into my new fitness week right now and I've already lost a whole pound. - 6/26/2013   12:16:38 PM
  • DEREKC710
    I am doing this right now. I believe that if you want to ward off health problems, like diabetes & heart disease you owe it to yourself to carve out 1 hour per day to exercise. No excuses- get up earlier or exercise after work/dinner. It is your life, your decision. - 6/25/2013   8:53:25 AM

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