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How Much Exercise Do You REALLY Need to Lose Weight?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It's not exactly earth-shattering news that exercise is essential for shedding pounds. Along with proper nutrition and a calorie-moderated diet, regular activity is a critical piece of the weight-loss equation—but how much? If you feel like the gym has become your second home, or if you're spending more hours walking, running or doing fitness videos than hanging out with your family, you might be overdoing it. Conversely, if your daily exercise consists of a 15-minute stroll around the block, you might need to ramp up your efforts to see real results.
Fortunately, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has provided some scientific guidance so you don't have to rely on guesswork.

Exercise Guidelines for Overall Health

In 2011, the ACSM released some general recommendations for how much exercise is needed to reap overall health and cardiovascular benefits. According to these guidelines, adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Broken down to 20 minutes per day, that might not sound like much—and for obese adults who are trying to lose weight, it may not be enough.
Take care to focus on the types of exercise you're doing in addition to the quantity. The ACSM recommends a diversified routine that includes the following four disciplines:
  1. Cardio Exercise: Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, which can be 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week or 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise three days per week. These can also be split into shorter, more frequent segments. Check out our 110 cardio ideas.
  2. Resistance Exercise: This includes strength training of major muscle groups two or three days each week, using either hand weights, resistance bands, weight machines or other equipment. Try to complete two to four sets of each exercise, starting with eight to 12 reps, then 10 to 15, and finally 15 to 20 to improve muscular endurance.
  3. Flexibility Exercise: It's recommended to perform stretching or yoga two or three days per week to improve range of motion. Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat two to four times.
  4. Functional Fitness Training: Two to three days per week, for 20 to 30 minutes per day, adults should engage in exercises that work their motor skills, such as balance, coordination and agility. This is especially important to prevent falls and increase mobility for older adults.

Exercise Guidelines for Weight Loss

If you're trying to lose weight, you most likely need more than the general recommended amount of 150 weekly minutes of exercise—but how much more? The ACSM released updated guidelines for weight loss and prevention of weight regain. For overweight and obese individuals, 250+ minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity will be more effective in reducing weight and keeping it off. Strength training is also highly recommended to increase fat-burning muscle and improve overall health.

What do you think? Does 50 minutes of exercise, five 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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SPUNOUTMOM 11/15/2018
Thank you. I saw a show that a doctor said the only way to weight loss was exercise. His recommendation was for 20 pound loss was 200 minutes of exercise per week. I sent in a question if weight loss need was greater did exercise and activity minutes also need to be greater? Never got a response. So thank you Report
Informative Report
SCIENCEFAN7 10/3/2018
Does it seem like a lot? Yes. If I did even half that amount of moderate intensity exercise I'd be an exhausted mess, and would hurt so much the next day I'd give up. Starting with smaller steps works better for me with my joint problems. Report
Yes, when you're overweight/obese, it is very difficult to wrap your head around those numbers but it WORKS!!! As I was losing my weight, with still some to go, I have found for me that doing a combination of weight training, 60-minutes, cardio, 60-minutes, stretching, flexibility, and balance, 60-minutes, and then if I choose to get any other type of exercise in on my Gazelle or just going outside to walk or mall walk is fantastic. The weight training and the Cardio are done 5-days a week and the stretching, flexibility, and balance are done 7-days a week with casual walks, if I choose to, on the weekend so my body can have a rest.

Thank you for this article it has helped me to see things more clearly.


- Nancy Jean -
GA Report
I read and article by Dr. Oz where he said you should diet to lose weight and exercise to keep it off. I take exception to what Dr. Oz says as I have found that dieting enhanced by exercise works a lot better than diet without exercise. Report
DWROBERGE 8/27/2018
fantastic information Report
JIMIPAGE29 7/27/2018
been walking 60 to 120 minutes seeing results Report
LIGHT624 7/3/2018
I think most overweight people will look at 50 minutes of daily exercise & say forget it! I took the find 10 challenge (10 minutes of exercise a day) and I started losing weight. I was monitoring what I ate & tried to make better decisions, but correct eating was hard for me. I still lost weight, though. Every little bit helps! Report
KHALIA2 6/25/2018
Great info! Thanks! Report
It always seems I need more than I'm doing, no matter how much I do. Report
SHOAPIE 6/16/2018
Great. Report
JAMER123 6/15/2018
Good information. Thanks for sharing! Report
PATRICIA-CR 6/15/2018
If the eating is not controlled, there won't be any weight loss and could even be a weight gain. Report
PWILLOW1 6/15/2018
HOLLYM48 6/15/2018
Great article! Report
SPINECCO 6/15/2018
Great article. Thanks Report
LANCE500 6/15/2018
I am a male 68 and have been lifting weight for over 50 years. I am muscular and in very good health, result of my 4 times/weekly gym (360 min.) and high protein/low carb diet. Fitness was also my highest priority and I look forward to every minute of my progressive workout. This article only provided a general guideline. 150 min. a week of rigorous exercise should be a minimum (walking around the block wouldn't count). An over weight person should be doing more than 400 min. instead of just 250 min, or as much as one could. Regardless, all exercise should be progressive (lift heavier, run faster or longer) and one should have a goal and a diet plan. Otherwise it would be just going thru the motions. Report
if I focus on just weight loss, I start missing the point. I am working toward being healthy in all areas of my life. Yes weight loss is part of it, but the primary goal is to live a healthy life! Report
ALEXTHEHUN 6/15/2018
Good, useful data Report
Great guidelines! I wish this worked for me. I find that I have to keep increasing my exercise to see weight loss because my body gets used to what I am already doing and then I don't lose anything. I am finding that 180 min. of hard running, 120 min. of toning a and 240 min. of light walking a week (every week) isn't enough for me to lose weight. I do watch what I am eating too. Report
NANAW12001 6/15/2018
Thanks. Report
MARTHA324 6/15/2018
Before I made exercise a daily non negotiable feature these guidelines sounded like a lot. Now? I do more than this on a regular basis. Get my strength and balance in with 2-3 barre classes each week. Report
EMGERBER 6/15/2018
Good information Report
1CRAZYDOG 6/15/2018
I feel nutrition is extrremely important and has to go in tandem w/exercise. You can't outexercise your fork!

The guidelines in this articls are what I follow, and it's important to remember that focusing on overall health vs. weight loss is critical. If we focus on our health, the rest follows.

And at my age, functionality is another key focus! I want to remain independent! Both proper nutrition and exercise work together to help me maintain that.

SUSANSKI 2/15/2018
There seems to be confusion regarding someone's post on here, who thinks you have to work out '14 days a week'. I think they misunderstood something, but I am unable to respond to them privately and see where the confusion lies. I hope they figure it out. Report
SUSANSKI 2/15/2018
Well, as I spark, I continue to learn about my bodies needs. I've always 'tried' to get in shape, but it's been a journey learning how to do that, failing and adjusting. After getting my food plan established and working out 30 minutes a day, I wasn't seeing results in the numbers on the scale. So I've been working on adjusting my cardio to 60 minutes at a time. (or split). I think I'm seeing results that way. I hope so! I can't afford to GAIN more, that's for sure. Report
At 56, I try to do an average of at least one hour per day, about 500-600 minutes most weeks. Having a desk cycle means I can pedal while relaxing and not really notice the time fly by. I also do weights for 2-3 hours a week. Seems like a lot, but soon goes..... Report
JT123456789 1/14/2018
So I'm supposed to exercise 14 days a week? How about a realistic guide for a 6 day a week program with the 7th day off for rest? Report
FATCOW5 1/11/2018
I’m 65 years 4 times a week, weights twice a week, abs and stretches twice a week, yoga twice a week, walk 3 times a week, bike once a week. There is no way I could do all that you suggest. I’m considered active for my age group. Report
ILOVEROSES 1/10/2018
Great article. Thanks Report
ILOVEROSES 1/10/2018
Great article. Thanks Report
Great insight into what is needed and how to attain it! Report
Good to know. Report
Some great insight. Report
Thank you Report
I appreciated the information and links in this article--thanks so much! Report
Thanks for showing this. It is really important to do exercise everyday. Report
I love you more than yesterday, less than tomorrow.
- Edmond Rostand Report
good article to read on Report
I need to strength train more Report
Losing weight is more about changing behaviors which changes your health ... which then changes your weight.

It's all intertwined. You can't not exercise away a unsupportive diet. But you also can not diet away an inactive lifestyle. Report
Awesome article. Report
If your focus is on losing weight, then exercise might not be a part of your day. However, if your focus is on your overall health? It will be. This article has been updated since it was first written. I respect that it now discusses functional fitness, mobility and balance. Big picture for and nutrition have to be besties. One without the other means I am not doing what needs to be done to optimize my health. Each of us get to determine how to make any of this work for us...there is no one size fits all kind of deal here. Moving beats sitting, something beats nothing. If you only have 20 minutes in your day to workout and you treat your body to exercise?! Nothing but mad respect for doing all you can within your constraints...which is a key component in being able to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Report
Interesting read, thank you for sharing. The 150 minute number sounds high at first to me. Then I checked my Spark Fitness Journals and I've been doing more than that now for a while and didn't realize how much the numbers had added up. I'm hardly a fitness nut, and did not start at 150 plus minutes. I had to slowly build. Almost 2 years ago when I got going all I could do was 10 minutes on a stationary bike. I think the point is to challenge yourself to be healthy and break out of the exercise comfort zone now and then. Report
Write it on your heart that every day
is the best day in the year.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson Report
Exercising my critical thinking muscles today.

Nothing in this article ACTUALLY SAYS that exercise is responsible for weight loss. There are a lot of presumptions ("It's not exactly earth-shattering news that exercise is essential for shedding pounds.") but no facts.

Even the article in the link can't bring itself to say that exercise leads to much more than "modest" weight loss (and what do they consider "modest"? 5% of body weight?):

"Greater amounts of physical activity are likely to be needed to achieve weight loss..."

"150-250 minutes/week of moderate-intensity physical activity is associated with prevention of weight gain. More than 150 minutes/week of moderate-intensity physical activity is associated with modest weight loss."

"150-250 minutes/week of moderate-intensity physical activity provides only modest weight loss. Greater amounts (ie. greater than 250) provide clinically significant weight loss."

The best they can come up with is this:

"There is some evidence that more than 250 minutes/week of moderate-intensity physical activity will prevent weight re-gain."

And finally, this gem, with no references to back it up:

"Energy/diet restriction combined with physical activity will increase weight loss as compared to diet alone."

If they are not comfortable stating anything with any degree of conviction or backing documentation, then you know they're fudging.

The truth is that we need exercise to be healthy, but most weight loss or gain will be accomplished in the grocery store, the pantry, and the restaurant, not the gym. Report
Thanks for the tips. Report
Thanks. Report
Interesting Report
Thanks for sharing a wonderful article on losing weight. I am also a lose weight trainer and I have a blog too by LoseWeightz. Please check my blog Too.
Thanks in advance Report