The Secrets of Success: Move It to Lose It

By , SparkPeople Blogger
How much exercise do you really need to lose weight? You've probably heard a lot of conflicting opinions from different experts. Some have even said that exercise doesn't help with weight-loss at all (more on that one later). What better way to find out than to ask the most successful weight "losers" how much exercise played a role in their healthy lifestyle?

When we were researching and writing our best-selling book, The Spark, we discovered 27 secrets of success that thousands of successful SparkPeople members have used to lose weight and keep it off. We're sharing our 15 favorite secrets of success on the dailySpark from March 1-15. Today we'll share the results of our survey on how much exercise SparkPeople members really did to reach their goals.

Secret #6: Move it to lose it.
Of those who reached their goals, 90% exercised regularly. How much exercise did they really do?

Okay, the idea of exercising to lose weight and increase your fitness level is not news. But these survey statistics make a powerful case for it. Of those who reached their weight-loss goals, 90% exercise regularly—an average of 5 to 6 times per week. People who reported being "stuck" (or NOT meeting their weight-loss goals) were significantly less likely to exercise. And those who did exercised less than the successful group—three or fewer times per week.

Recent news stories have questioned whether exercise really helps you lose weight. And when it comes to weight loss, what's the first thing people do? Diet. But experts have known for a long time that weight-loss happens more easily and consistently when people combine dietary changes with an increase in physical activity. That powerful combination allows you to eat a little more than dieting alone does (while still losing weight), burn more calories (to enhance your weight loss), and help reshape your body so that you see great results, which motivate you to continue.

Don't be intimidated by these stats. If you only exercise twice a week, that doesn't mean you're doomed to fail at weight loss. A little exercise is better than none at all, especially when it's done consistently. It doesn't have to be strenuous, long or boring either. Beginners should always start slower—with shorter workouts and fewer sessions each week—as they gradually build up their fitness levels anyway, so those 10-minute sessions you're squeezing in to your day are really working! In addition, exercise offers so many benefits to your body and your health beyond weight loss.

In case you need a little more convincing (or motivation), here are some SparkPeople resources that make the case for adding exercise to your healthy lifestyle.
For more secrets to success plus dozens of at-home strength and cardio workouts that you won't find online, read The Spark.

Did you miss a secret? Find all the rest of the series of 15 here (a new one is posted every day through March 15).

How about you: Is exercise one of your secrets to success? How has it made a difference in your weight-loss or body composition?

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EMGERBER 11/1/2020
Move or lose it is so true, I am a doer and love being on the go all the times, getting exercise in is no problem for me. Report
WILDKAT781 8/31/2020
thanks Report
CECELW 8/1/2020
Exercise will help you in a big way...regardless of your age Report
Thanks Report
Written nine years ago and still relevant. Report
Very interesting and encouraging article. Report
I have committed to getting my 10,000 steps a day. I'm also trying to do strength training 2 to 3 times a week. Report
Great article. I'll keep doing what I'm doing. Report
Great info! Thanks for sharing this one! Report
good info Report
Exercise is necessary for me nog to regain. Report
thanks for sharing
great suggestions. I am diabetic and exercise 5 days a week. 50 minutes on the treadmill and 30-45 minutes strength training. This added to a diet regimen was able to lose 30 pounds from 185 to 155. My goal is 150. My diabetes is now better controlled. ciscomonty2 Report
Exercising regularly makes me crave healthier food choices, is the best stress-reliever I know, and gives me more energy. Report
I get really bored on my treadmill so I roll it out in from of my tv. I bought a pedal bicycle (just pedals no wheels or handle bars) and I have been using it at work under my desk. Luckly its closed so no one knows about. I sit all day long so I get some exercise in and work at the same time. I can also read a book and pedal and I loose track of time. I also cut up fruit and add a glass of water next to me and I can get my fruit and water at the same time. Report
Exercise is a key part of my success so far. I found a huge difference once I started doing some heavier exercise and burning more calories. I find I may need to step it up again and feel I'm ready to add something new or more intense to my workouts. I exercise almost every day...somedays it's just walking but always feel good that I'm moving and enjoying being healthier. Report
Exercise has made all the difference for me. I have struggled for several years but since finding Spark at the start of the year I have steadily lost 2 pounds a week. I am feeling great and look forward to my exercise everyday. I even started racquetball lessons last week and love it!!!! Report
I can't imagine a life without movement - it's usually the highlight of my day. I especially love cardio, although I know weight training is every bit as important. Our vacations are almost always centered around exercise - bicycling and/or hiking. And when our vacation is not all about exercise, we make sure we workout or spend hours walking. Report
Exercise is THE KEY for me when it comes to weight loss. I can eat 1400-1500 calories a day and just maintain; I need to workout intensely to lose anything. For me right now, this means 35-45 minutes of strength training 6 days a week, and at least an hour of cardio a day, right now walking, recumbent bike, gardening and ranch work. Without exercise, I would make no progress! Report
starting an exercise routine is so hard! I am trying to get back in the habit of doing the treadmill at least 4/7 days a week and 10 minutes at a time. Plus I walk at work on breaks and lunches..........totals up to like an hour a day and 3-4 miles!
excercise is vital for weight loss... and eventhough its hard to get started, once youre at it, you get used to it. for me, excercise is not an option. when its time to hit the gym, i don't think about it, i just head to it, no excuses. sometimes, when i really feel lazy, i just think about the amazing feeling of satisfaction, and the endorphin high, and that motivates me more than anything else, more than being skinny and being healthy, that feeling is the best feeling in the world!!!! Report
Besides eatting healthy.
I KNOW that exercise is a big part in me keeping the weight off plus it feels so great!
I love my workouts! Report
I exercise 6 days a week (1 hour of cardio per day and an additional 3 days of strength training)....and have lost 80 before you go to the next post because there "is no way you are going to exercise that much to lose weight and if it is what I have to do forget it"...........that was me 2 years ago.....I found out...losing weight is all about what you put in your mouth...yes you can lose all your weight by dieting alone. You can also train and run a marathon and gain weight!! but the exercise makes you feel so good and builds such a feeling of camaraderie amongst other exercisers.....

Just like the article says start out slow......I goal two years ago was to walk 4 miles 3 to 4 days per week. It used to take me 1 hour 17 minutes to walk that 4 miles...2 years later I can run 6.2 miles in 53 minutes!

So bottom line do both....use the nutritional tracker.....and the fitness's all about calories in and calories will begin to eat healthier and exercise more because it will make you feel better....every diet works and every exercise program works it is all about finding something "realistic" that works and committing to it.


Kim Report
Not only does exercise help by firming up and burning calories, but it helps because the time I spend biking or other activities is time I don't spend munching in front of the TV! Report
I have really come to loving exercise, its like I'm a little addicted. I can feel myself getting stronger, less stressed and definately more fit. My friends all tell me that they can see the change in me weekly. I currently do at least 30 minutes of cardio 5-6 days a week...and 3 times of strenght training. Great music pushes me along the way too! Report
I love the Wii, its fun and boy can you get the sweat going with the bike on expert. Fun to challenge friends to set a new high score! Report
Not only does exercise help me lose weight, it also helps me feel happier, stronger, healthier overall. I love to exercise! Report
I'm just staring out here on Spark People, what a great site! Committing to walk a 10k in May has me moving a lot more. :) Report
I reached a very early plateau in my weight loss, and if it wasn't for the changes I feel in my body from working out, I would have given up. I feel so much better after these last two months that I don't know why I wasn't doing this before. My moods are better (my husband told me this the other day), my lung capacity is greater (I enjoy breathing deeply now), and I can feel my legs growing stronger. As I've said, if I couldn't feel these results, I surely would have given up... exercise has been essential for me! Report
I definitely work out on most days of the week, sometimes more than once per day. It not only helps me get to sleep, but really has helped me in my weight loss. Report
I'm moving it. 20 years sitting in front of the computer has taken a toll but now I'm moving it constantly. Report
In the past, even when I had success with weight loss, I would workout much more vigerously 5 - 6 days a week and take a day or two off....this time I am following the pattern from the Spark that suggests at least 10 minutes a day...I do 30-40 minutes at least 5 days a week and the other days, I just commit to doing 10 could be cardio, or lifting weights, but I do it... and I have had more success and lost at least a pound every week!!! Thanks Sparkguy!! Report
For years I lost weight off and on without exercising. Yo-yo dieting without keeping it off. 5 years ago I started exercising consistently along with eating healthy and I lost my 70 lbs. and have kept it off for 4 years. I still workout 5-6 days a week. I feel better and my mood is better when I exercise. That motivates me to keep my eating under control. I look forward to my workouts now! Report
I'm an exercise addict, but after losing 30lbs I hit a plateau around 220 and couldn't seem to get past it no matter what... then I started feeling constantly fatigued and had bone/joint pain and inflammatory attacks... so I decided that exercise wasn't right for me. I quickly regained 10lbs and became stuck at 230! Finally after a year of searching for the answer I discovered the reason - I have Celiac's Disease, so I wasn't absorbing nutrients right and I kept having allergic reactions to the food I was eating.

Now that I'm eating the right diet I've started back in on the exercise (biking 10-20 miles every other day and doing some strength training... I'm still ramping myself up), and the weight is just falling off. I weighed myself today and I was at 183lbs! I think exercise is really important, but if you have an underlying health condition you need to get that resolved FIRST, or the exercise is just going to wear you down and make you depressed at your lack of progress. But for most people, sensible diet + exercise is definitely the way to go! Report
I love exercise! It makes me feel good and I am seeing results. I am becoming the athlete that I always wanted to be! Report
I am not as consistant with exercise as I should be. I must admit I enjoy it more than expected once I got started. I especially enjoy using Coach Nicole's videos. Report
I have always hated or dreaded exercise. Now I look forward to walking my neighborhood. I have even started using my treadmill. I feel so much better these days because of exercise and healthy food choices. Report
Not only do I lose more when I exercise, I see a difference in how my clothes fit. I love cardio and I'm learning to tolerate strength training! Report
Exercise makes me feel stronger and healthier. The wii aerobics have helped me lose the most inches. Walking got me started and moving on to more. Report
walking a lot more,even to work. eating a lot more veggies-cooking all kinds of veg soups. my boss is all so doing this .with me. Keep moveing. Report
I find exercise easier to do than cut calories. Exercise alone does not assure success as once believed. I like how SP separates activity calories from intake as it is too easy to compensate with more calories after you work out. The two must be looked at as mutually exclusive. They are both beneficial in their own ways. Exercise helps me with stress, strength, balance and loss of inches. It also gives me time to remind myself that I am strong, competing only against myself. It can become addictive when you find something you love! Report
I've continued to up my exercise and now I feel my legs are getting stronger and am loving the feeling of gaining fitness. Report
When my wife and I started our life style change back in August, we changed what we put in our bodies and we started the Power 90 workout program. We consistently did that and have totally changed what and how we eat. My wife has lost 38 pounds since August, and I am totally proud of her. I have lost a total of 68 pounds between August and December. I have maintained my weight since then. Report
I definitely feel like the scale has a tough time moving for me regardless if I exercise. When I started SP in July 09, I worked out vigorously (kickboxing, ellipitcal, gym machines, p90x--to name a few) 6-7 days a week and watched my calories and for the first 3 months you know how much I lost? Ten pounds--in three months and only an inch of each thigh, my waist and a half an inch off each arm--Four inches all together, so I couldn't blame it on my "body changing", for the scale not moving, and I could fit all my clothes. I took a break from SP, frustrated by what turned into a 6 wk plateau, getting back into this Jan, and 3 vigorous workouts a week doesn't do anything for me. Maybe that is the recommendation for people who haven't exercised in years.

I seriously think something hormonal, or thyroid related may be going on, b/c I work out hard and sacrifice major in my diet with little success. I haven't gained weight (the only positive) but the scale doesn't move down either. Report
I absolutely have to exercise to lose weight. Diet definitely plays an overwhelming role for me (I couldn't exercise enough hours in the day when I binge eat), but exercise is a must because it helps decrease my appetite. I also sleep better and I always overeat when I'm really tired. Report
I've never lost weight by exercise alone. In fact, last fall while training for my first 5 k, I actually gained weight. All that hard training made me hungry and I kept going off my food plan. I've had some other runners tell me similar stories, so I know I'm not alone in this. I've also heard that moderate exercise helps control your appetite and that does seem to be true. Maybe not so much for serious training though.

These days, I exercise for my heart health and to build strength. I want to be more physically capable and have a better muscle ratio and need exercise for that. I've heard it said that weight loss is 80% about the food and 20% about the exercise and that sounds about right to me.

Still, 20% is no shabby number, it's an important part of the equation and certainly gives us an edge, so we don't want to neglect it. There are so many benefits to our bodies we need to be exercising regularly in addition to making wise food choices.

So I'm not giving up the 5k training, I'm just watching what I eat too.
I have an underactive thyroid, for which I take medication, but I believe my metabolism is slower than most people. In addition, I am past menopause, another reason I probably have a slow metabolism. I know that I cannot eat few enough calories to lose weight but last year I lost 25 pounds after trying unsuccessfully to lose weight for more than 20 years. The 'secret' to my success is vigorous exercise. My gym is computerized so I can look back and see that in 2009 I spent 586 hours doing cardio for a total of 356,472 calories. I also lifted weights about 130 times (free weights, machines and crunches) for a total of 5.5 million pounds. In addition, my blood pressure is 118/65, my cholesterol is 147 (HDL is up and LDL is down), I exceeded the 100th percentile for women my age on the treadmill when I had a stress echo cardiogram and my hA1c is 5.9, which means my type 2 diabetes is very-well controlled. My doctor is ecstatic about the state of my health and so am I. Even though I am practically at my goal weight I do not plan to ever stop exercising. I think it is key! Report
Something should be said for exercising also helping with the saggies after significant weightloss. Not that it eliminates the problem but it does help some. Report
Exercise and healthy food - a great combination. I like how the exercise I'm getting is reshaping my body. Not into the fashion model image that I longed for when I was really young, but into a healthier and leaner woman 'of a certain age'.
WooHoo! Report