How Much Exercise Do You REALLY Need to Lose Weight?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/10/2013 6:00 AM   :  1317 comments   :  1,314,318 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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    50 minutes of exercise doesn't seem like a lot to me. 30 minutes of it come naturally to me because I don't own a car and do nearly everything by bicycle. I've done this all my life and it didn't help me to lose weight, on the contrary. I add at least 30 mins of exercise a day, but even that won't help me get the weight off as long as I don't restrict on calories. - 6/26/2015   3:06:53 AM
    It,s more about what and how much you're eating. If you want to lose weight, you have to change your diet. Then you don't have to go to the gym so much. - 6/16/2015   6:05:43 AM
  • 1265
    I would love to do that if I could just find the time..... - 6/15/2015   8:47:53 PM
  • 1264
    I know 30 minutes per day 5x week is not enough for me. - 6/15/2015   7:15:23 PM
  • 1263
    Yes, I definitely think that for significant weight loss, one needs to exercise 250 minutes or more a week. What you eat is another key factor as no amount of exercise will help if you are consuming 2000+ calories daily. I exercise 150-200 minutes a week at least and eat about 1700 calories. The weight loss is very slow-about 4 pounds a month, but I am ok with that because I know I am doing something I will maintain long term. If I was to push for 250-300 minutes a week or curtail my caloric intake any more, I think I would feel overwhelmed or burn out. I am happy with my slow, steady progress. I will do more when I feel I can or it fits in my life without any further disruption. - 6/15/2015   7:02:14 PM
  • 1262
    I have fibromyalgia and suffer from depression, both of which can derail any exercise program. On the fibro side, I work with a trainer for strength training, but so many days we have to change her program to fit what is hurting or pulled or injured that week. It's very limiting. As to cardio, a lot of times I have to take a chance and try anyway when something specific is hurting, because sometimes it takes care of itself. To me, 50 minutes 5 days a week plus two days of strength training is wayyy too much! As they say, my weight loss is limited because I am not doing "enough" exercise. With this body, I think I'm doing the best I can. Like some people on here said, this article can be discouraging to those just starting out. And I would add "with medical issues." We have to really watch our calories and get only modest weight loss. Still, if the scale is moving downward, even if it's 1/2 a pound a week, that to me is a win. - 6/15/2015   3:34:45 PM
  • 1261
    I started out 20 minutes then increase as I felt more able to do, I just started doing two miles on treadmill I have a problem with one of my ankles (broke got pins in it) but I do 3.5 incline 2.9 speed 4th week and feeling better will increase if possible I have lost 5 pounds which I think is great and inches are coming off, my goal is 180 minutes which I do more. Just stick with it and take it one day at a time. I do 5 days 42-46 minutes and then dvd 2 out of 5 days. Goal this year is 50 pounds then I move from there to reach target weight 190 that might be heavy for some but I do want a little meat on my bones I'm tall so that would be great. - 6/15/2015   2:38:08 PM
    Between asthma, COPD, and weak knees, it's incredibly hard to find any exercise I'm capable off aside from weights and resistance bands. - 6/15/2015   2:35:03 PM
  • 1259
    I HAVE to exercise an hour every day of the week to lose weight. Half an hour walking and half an hour on the elliptical. Not fun, but the alternative is worse. It helps to watch something on TV while doing the elliptical.
    I have arthritis, so doing nothing isn't an option. If I don't exercise one day, I hurt even more then next. Limiting calories is the hard part for me.
    I am lucky enough to work from home, but when I worked in an office I walked every day at lunchtime. They say sitting is the new smoking. :( - 6/15/2015   2:16:07 PM
    Yellow_Volkster is bang on. I read recently that your weight is 10% exercise and 90% what you eat. I always say, "Eat for weight management; exercise for good health." You can't out-run your fork. Exercise only enhances your weight management. Exercising for an hour a day five days a week is very good for you! - 6/15/2015   1:52:00 PM
  • 1257
    I agree that 30 minutes of exercise five days a week is not enough for any significant weight loss. The most important component of weight loss is what you put into your mouth! I'm living proof of that! I've been exercising (mostly brisk walking) for an average of 242 minutes per week for 4 weeks now, but have not lost any weight because I'm not controlling my food intake. And I don't think it's because the exercise is making my hungrier! I'm a teacher and it's now summer, so I'm around food (or have access to food) all day. You can't lose weight unless you reduce the amount of food you're eating. I mostly do the walking for the cardiovascular benefits.
    UPDATE: I began restricting my daily calories at the beginning of June 2015 (two weeks after I wrote my initial comment). To date, I have lost 31 lbs, and it's been 11 weeks. Plus, walking is now easier, since I have less weight to carry around! School is back in session, I'm not exercising as much, and I'm still losing weight, although not quite as fast. I have about 75 lbs more to lose. - 6/15/2015   1:21:30 PM
  • 1256
    For me, the question is not solely the amount of time. I find that when I am running (or jogging) regularly, I lose weight. So as the whether gets nicer and I spend more time running outside, my weight drops every year. (And then goes the other way in the winter.) So my constant push is, commit to go for a run every day when the weather is nice. - 6/15/2015   11:17:42 AM
  • 1255
    I think it depends on age, stamina, and progress to date. Telling an obese person that 10 minutes per day doesn't help, is destructive to progress. I believe progress is any amount of exercise this week that is more than last week. No one starts out doing marathons. I started with 10 minutes and I'm up to 30 most days. I will continue to improve but if I had known 50 minutes was required I'm not sure I would have started. I like Sparks 10 minute daily goal -- when I do 30 I feel like Rocky. :)
    - 6/15/2015   10:03:42 AM
  • 1254
    That's 250 minutes a week. With all my fitness classes I'm hitting 285 minutes four days a week. It's doable, but you have to commit to it. - 6/15/2015   8:28:27 AM
  • 1253
    I think that there has to be a balance, and it won't be the same for everybody. If you exercise for 50 minutes, but it makes you so hungry that you eat more, it might be doing more harm than good. Healthy eating is more important than how much you exercise; however, if you eat healthy, you will probably have more energy to work out more, whether you start out at 10 minutes or go 50 or more. - 6/8/2015   4:40:41 PM
  • 1252
    The time is doable for some but not everyone. For me, I pop on OINB and walk until the end of the episiode. I have my treadmill on a good incline and I walk briskly. I've watched a good show and gotten a good bit of cardio in without feeling as if it were a chore. - 6/1/2015   12:16:29 PM
  • 1251
    Adding a walk with the dog pushes me over the edge. It's good for the dog, too. - 5/5/2015   2:06:30 PM
  • 1250
    I've found that in my Experiment of One that I need approximately 40 minutes of exercise most every day to see the needle go down on the scale. Getting myself out the door is the hardest part. Reminding myself that if I just go for 10 minutes, I can stop really helps. Then I'm out the door and I want to stay out.

    I know there's a recent study that says exercise doesn't mean much towards losing weight. I agree that diet is a big chunk of it. Yet, 40 minutes is a must most days for me in movement. - 5/5/2015   2:04:09 PM
  • 1249
    I do Insanity 6 times a week with each lasting around 40 minutes. Am I losing weight? Yes. What I love the most is that I'm stronger and building muscle which means I will burn more calories. I'm sorry but not everyone has the time to work out for 50 minutes at a time. I've done the Insanity workouts in month 2 and those last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and I feel exhausted afterward. It isn't always a good thing or reasonable. I can't wait to do Insanity: Max 30. Every workout is 30 minutes but you push yourself harder. I've read you get the most benefit out of working out in the first 30 minutes anyway. Exercise is exercise. Do what you can and eat healthy and you will see results. You don't have to kill yourself working out to the extreme. =) - 5/4/2015   10:59:26 AM
  • 1248
    I think for most people 50 minutes may be enough but it also depends on how hard you exercise. I tend to do a good hour and a half per day 5 days a week for sure but that doesn't include all of the walking that I try to get in and I still have to stay within my calories and make sure that I track everything. - 5/4/2015   10:11:05 AM
  • 1247
    It is time to bump up my minutes, although we can often do this by merely walking instead of driving everywhere. Take the stairs, practice good form while standing up from a sitting position and doing a stretch and some isometric exercises at least every 10 minutes or so while working, crafting, watching TV, etc.

    We can do this. Yes, we can. - 5/3/2015   10:44:49 PM
  • 1246
    50 minutes is a lot when you are up at 5 to go to work and do not get home until 4:30. As a full time house wife with a husband who does not share household responsibilities me time is precious - sometimes non-existent until 8:30 or 9 at night and I can't work out that late - how do others solve that problem? - 5/3/2015   9:53:13 PM
    I lost weight for the first time in my life, (after a 15 year slow weight gain sped up by menopaus). Here is what I did: 1) figured my calorie count for my final weight and used sparkpeople to Faithfully and Accurately measuring or weighing, and preplanning restaurant meals. So now that I am done I don't have to change my diet, I have Ben doing it for 10 months. I used 13 times my final weight to calculate the calories per day. 2) very little sugar foods, so cereals, cookies, are rare. I allow a half a snack bag of peanut m&ms r dark chocolate. Now when I do take in a brownie or extra sugar, I get dizzy or a stomache ache so I know better. 3) all grains have to have protein and fiber 4) hungry at night? Protein. 5) Greek yogurt no fat from aldis is my sour cream, yogurt, and a special mix I like of yogurt and Krema peanut butter to dip apples in or eat alone. 6) try not to eat for 12 hours, say 7pm to the next day 7am. 7) low salt. Exercise: 10-20 min elliptical or a walk/ bike with 20-30 min strength training with weights or weight bearing exercises. I did work with a trainer at a gym and continued the exercises on my own. About 4-5 days a week. I finally got my weight down, have more energy, and chloresterol came down back to 30 years ago, vitamin D came up. That's how I did it. Sparkpeople helped me log in the food, weight, and exercise. My weight loss was .5 pounds or so a week, if I didn't weight every am I would have been discouraged but after I saw a consistent trend it motivated me to keep going. Here is a weight cal site
    - 5/3/2015   8:16:54 PM
  • 1244
    I do more than that now. Workout at the gym three - four times/week and that is a good 50 minutes of intense cardio. Then I do strength and I walk every day. I get between 70 - 100 minutes 6 days/week of combo on intense and moderate aerobics. Sunday I probably get in at least 30 and I do yoga once or twice a week. I've been maintaining an 80 pound loss for over two years. Feel great! - 5/3/2015   1:22:52 PM
    I've always exercised and used to be an aerobics instructor and never had a weight problem until I went through menopause, It's like all of the weight loss stories most coming from young people whose metabolism works naturally at a higher rate then someone in their 50's, there's no comparison. I signed up in sparkpeople last Sunday, 7 days ago and following it closely. I did weigh myself today and I've lost 4.5 lbs, but I'm only eating at the most 1100 calories each day and it's leaving me more tired. I'm up and start work at 7 a.m. up every day by 5 a.m. makes it impossible to work out in the morning. The weather has cleared and every night me and my husband are walking about 3 - 5 miles. hoping this program works as I've never had a weight problem my entire life and always been fit and technically I've done nothing different in my lifestyle of always eating healthy, no pop, no garbage food and yet my weight has increased 60 lbs, no answers for it, visited many doctors to find out why, don't suffer with any health problems, so it's been really frustrating. I've been tested for thyroid multiple times and comes back normal, so I don't know what it is and what's caused the weight gain. - 5/3/2015   1:02:23 PM
    I've always exercised and used to be an aerobics instructor and never had a weight problem until I went through menopause, It's like all of the weight loss stories most coming from young people whose metabolism works naturally at a higher rate then someone in their 50's, there's no comparison. I signed up in sparkpeople last Sunday, 7 days ago and following it closely. I did weigh myself today and I've lost 4.5 lbs, but I'm only eating at the most 1100 calories each day and it's leaving me more tired. I'm up and start work at 7 a.m. up every day by 5 a.m. makes it impossible to work out in the morning. The weather has cleared and every night me and my husband are walking about 3 - 5 miles. hoping this program works as I've never had a weight problem my entire life and always been fit and technically I've done nothing different in my lifestyle of always eating healthy, no pop, no garbage food and yet my weight has increased 60 lbs, no answers for it, visited many doctors to find out why, don't suffer with any health problems, so it's been really frustrating. I've been tested for thyroid multiple times and comes back normal, so I don't know what it is and what's caused the weight gain. - 5/3/2015   1:02:23 PM
    There are ways to make your current exercise more intense. I do 45-minute walking videos, but I wear wrist weights or use hand weights while doing the upper body movements.

    You can also do shorter workouts, especially when doing resistance training. There are a lot of 10-minute spot toning exercises/videos that you can add when you're walking or doing other cardio.

    Losing weight works best with 3 components - proper nutrion (portion control & eating the right foods), cardio/aerobic exercise, and strength training. - 5/3/2015   12:59:13 PM
    Seems reasonable to me, just put a more positive beat on it. Any exercise is better than no exercise. Its okay to work up to 250 minutes a week, you don't have to jump right into that much. 10 minutes here and there adds up so don't feel you have to do it all at once. Steps on a pedometer really add up and can be spread throughout the day. Its only 40 minutes if you go 6 days a week, even less daily if you go extra one day. Exercise even gets fun! - 5/3/2015   10:09:24 AM
  • 1239
    It doesn't seems too much to me. Actually since I've been on SparkPeople my way of thinking has change. I first just started with just doing 10 minutes daily (and always was able to do a little bit more). My workouts are now at 60 minutes 5 days, week. I started by using my lunch breaks as my work out time and to just continue to move throughout the day! - 5/3/2015   1:14:02 AM
  • 1238
    I think it's realistic, but not necessarily in one bout of exercise.

    With a kid who is a demanding activity (3 nights a week I'm driving her somewhere and back and she has to eat first), and a husband working shifts (so meal prep has to revolve around his start/end times as well as fit with the kids activities), trying to fit 50 minutes in after work would be hard and morning doesn't work for me, I've tried it. But I can get in a 30 minute walk at lunch (in good weather) and 30 minutes in after work if I plan well...or I can plan around doing 30 mins before meal prep/taxi service and 30 mins later on.....but that's in total, not just cardio.

    I tried program where workouts would be an hour to 90 mins in one workout up to six days a week, and after a few weeks it was just too much to fit in consistently and manage my home and family obligations in a timely manner as well. Everyone was paying the price for me to get my workouts in and I'd end up being in the kitchen til 9 p.m. by the time there was prep, cooking and clean up done. - 4/14/2015   1:15:33 PM
  • 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
    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
    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, 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
    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
    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
    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
  • BILLIE150
    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

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