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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.

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ROCKRS 4/8/2020
thanks Report
CECELW 3/13/2020
i've done the majority of these workouts Report
DEE107 3/6/2020
thanks Report
GRANNYOF05 9/23/2019
Thanks for the information. Report
Great article! I think the key is to address all four areas set forth in the article! Report
FRAN0426 7/19/2019
Thanks for the great article Report
FRAN0426 7/19/2019
Thanks for the great article Report
THETROUT 7/13/2019
Helpful. 3 days a week on the non cardio exercises was helpful to me. I was wondering if it just wouldn't be enough. Report
DEEPAK-66 7/8/2019
To achieve significant weight loss, the organization recommends over 250 minutes per week. About 150 to 250 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week is likely to produce modest weight loss. That's roughly 22 to 35 minutes of exercise per day to lose weight...(mygenericpharmacy) Report
KACEYSW 6/21/2019
This is helpful information. I wish the link to the guidelines worked. Report
At 70, this is a bit hard. Report
MSROZZIE 6/15/2019
Excellent article. Good need-to-know information! Report
Thank you! Report
I need to add the flexibility training. Report
TERMITEMOM 6/15/2019
Great info. For me, exercise is not so much for losing weight, but to maintain/improve my health overall. Report
HOLLYM48 6/15/2019
Great article! Report
Great article! Report
SHOAPIE 6/15/2019
Thank you. Report
SHAYNE139 6/15/2019
Exercise is very important for overall health. But, if that is what you are using to lose weight what do you think will happen when you stop? Eating back your exercise calories will not help you to retrain your eating habits and change your lifestyle which is what must happen to maintain the weight loss. Report
RCLYKE 6/15/2019
Great info Report
NELLJONES 6/15/2019
When I lost my weight in 1970, no one even mentioned exercise as part of the process, and we still lost weight. Report
MAREE1953 6/15/2019
I agree that daily exercise is important and I love my Crossfit classes--intense, challenging, variety. BUT if the goal is to lose weight, 80+% is WHAT you eat/drink and WHEN. The Standard American Diet is SAD; telling us to snack to keep our metabolism revved is the biggest lie ever. It's caused rampant obesity by making our bodies insulin resistant. Read or listen to Dr Jason Fung's books and podcasts. HUGE difference in my life! Report
Thanks Report
Thank you for the informative article. I'm just starting my journey and learning one day at a time! Report
When I was losing I probably got 50 - 60 minutes/day of moderate exercise broken out to several 10 - 20 minute walks. Now in maintenance and retired, I get a lot more. Partially because our dog wants to be walked and then I go to the gym most days. Getting 90 minutes is pretty much the norm - again not all in one session. Report
Grear article Report
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
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
fantastic information Report
been walking 60 to 120 minutes seeing results Report
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
Great info! Thanks! Report
It always seems I need more than I'm doing, no matter how much I do. Report
Great. Report
Good information. Thanks for sharing! Report
If the eating is not controlled, there won't be any weight loss and could even be a weight gain. Report
Great article! Report
Great article. Thanks Report
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
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
Thanks. Report
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
Good information Report
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.