How Much Exercise Do You REALLY Need to Lose Weight?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/10/2013 6:00 AM   :  1305 comments   :  1,287,948 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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  • 1305
    I released 65 lbs, and have maintained that for almost 3 years now, with only mild exercise occasionally. While I am adding more exercise into my life for overall general health and well-being, certain amounts, specific hours of exercise were certainly not necessary for me in order to lose whereas significant dietary changes were a requirement.

    cj - 5/13/2016   5:36:59 PM
    The thing with weight loss is everybody is different. I have been up and down in weight most of my adult life, between a size 8 to a size 22 and I have tried every "diet" known to man and woman. What works for me it to have between 50 to 80 minutes of exercise daily while carefully watching my intake to lose weight..... that is what works for me. The key is figuring out what your body is telling you. My husband can eat anything and everything and stays within a 10lb weight range and is not overweight. Before we met, I had lost about 100lbs by exercising alot and eating little, but nutritiously. As we dated we were very active and I continued to maintain. Then we got married (second marriage for both). I moved to his state, changed my job, was working on a master's degree and my whole normal routine went out the window. Slowly weight came back for a number of reasons. I wasn't doing the amount of exercise I had in the past, my husband wasn't excercising with me as much, and I fooled myself into thinking I could eat like my husband eats. Well, that 100 pounds made its way back plus another 10. I was tired, grouchy, and I couldn't do the things I had been able to do before like running, walking, and biking. When we would go on vacations I was always self conscious about being the biggest woman there and wouldn't do things I wanted to do. It has been very discouraging but at the end of February this year I had had enough. I tried a new "diet" but found it difficult to maintain. I did lose weight but felt it was a gimmick with them just wanting you to buy all their expensive products; but it did me to start back to the way I've been successful before. As of today, I've lost 40 pounds. Yes, I have a long way to go but I am determined to do what works for me and not compare myself to others. So, that means I will be exercising at least 50 minutes a day and probably more on some days, eating a limited, nutritious diet and enjoy being able to do more than I have in about 8 years. I feel less stressed, have more energy and am not as grouchy. The trick is finding what works for you and this works for me. - 5/12/2016   2:20:57 PM
    Great Post. interesting read lots of weight loss information.
    If you need more help with your weight loss, I found this great program that
    can help with you weight loss journey the right exercise program mainly for women. - 4/22/2016   11:41:30 PM
  • 1302
    That's funny because just last week I thought to myself that maybe my 30 min 5x a week isn't working enough and I should bump it to 40 -50 min per session to really see results. I just barely started so time will tell. - 3/31/2016   7:39:48 PM
  • 1301
    Agree with Icedemeter. I am fairly sedentary but losing slowly and steadily following Spark meal recommendations. I understand the value and need for activity but I think this article seems to indicate that unless you do the recommended amounts, you won't lose weight. I think it's more important to get the food stuff down and find things you love to do for activity. Imposing on yourself stringent food plans or exercise plans that are not sustainable in YOUR reality is a huge mistake. - 3/3/2016   3:48:45 PM
    It seems like a lot to me. I'm struggling with chronic pain, but I know if I lose weight that will help. I will push harder. - 3/2/2016   9:05:59 PM
  • 1299
    I usually get 300-330 minutes of excercise. Its what I can fit in right now.I lose 0.5 lbs a week. I eat between 1,300-1,700 calories a day. I enjoy excercise and hope to transition from moderate intensity to high intensity by the time my son goes to 4k ,which is in September. - 3/2/2016   2:52:13 PM
  • 1298
    I have a goal of 240 minutes a week alternating between cardio alone (at least 30 minutes 3 days a week) and cardio/strength training combined 3 days a week when I generally get in about 45 minutes of exercise. Usually I hit or exceed my goal and it has been working for me, along with watching my calorie intake. I agree with other comments here - it takes a combination of diet and exercise to be successful. - 3/2/2016   1:52:53 PM
  • 1297
    This exercise recommendation seems right to me. I have been following a very balanced 1400 cal (approx) diet with 60 min per day of walking, biking. and twice weekly weight training. I am progressing at about one pound lost per week. Slow and steady wins - so they say! - 3/2/2016   12:39:32 PM
  • 1296
    Since this is an old article and the link no longer goes anywhere useful, I can only assume that the recommendations are based on the amount of exercise required to lose weight without any change in diet / calorie intake. I, like so many others, was able to easily lose weight with changes in diet only with no exercise at all.

    Frankly, I'm very glad that I never saw any articles like this before I was well in to losing weight. There is no way that I could ever exercise that much every week (physical and time restraints) while I was losing, and articles like this with the extreme "requirements" make anything less seem like it's not even worth the bother.

    I have to wonder just how many people have been discouraged out of making small steps to change to healthier lifestyles by the overblown claims and requirements that they see in articles like this. - 3/2/2016   10:50:14 AM
  • 1295
    While I could dedicate more time to working out, I'm going to be honest. I don't want to. I do 30 minutes of cardio 5 days a week, I wear a FitBit and make sure to get 10,000 steps (or freaking close to that) every day. And every time I've gone down this road of trying to lose weight, what matters most isn't exercise. It's how much I eat. Portions be outta control, yo! - 3/2/2016   10:12:48 AM
  • 1294
    This is what it takes for me. Track my stats. - 3/2/2016   9:58:15 AM
  • 1293
    The fact that these organizations continue to change their recommendations proves they really don't know the answer. It is obviously important to exercise to become and stay healthy; however, diet is the true key to weight loss and maintaining your weight. - 3/2/2016   9:53:19 AM
  • 1292
    I've consistently exercise about 60-90 minutes almost every day- 25 minute run and 45 min-90 min of yoga per day since the beginning of January. I lost 8 lbs and it's the last bit of weight I need to lose- the stubborn bit- so I agree with this article. I was exercising far less last year (3-5 days per week 30-40 min) and I was at a plateau Oct-Dec. - 3/2/2016   9:23:03 AM
  • 1291
    I try to do at least 30 minutes 6 times a week but lately I find this not to be enough so I have increased to 40 - 45 minutes 5 times a week. When consistent, I do notice a difference - 3/2/2016   8:20:57 AM
  • LWONG2
    I've noticed the more I work out (not harder)...the easier it is for me to keep the weight being a woman over 40 it's gotten much harder to lose & keep off even 1 lb. I do a combo of cardio and strength training over the week...with 1 day off to recover......the thing for me is at 45-1 hour of strength or a mix of cardio and strength.... - 3/2/2016   7:05:33 AM
  • 1289
    When I go to the gym, I do 70 minutes, 3-4 times a week, so that seems about right, as those sessions are cardio and strength training. - 3/2/2016   3:42:30 AM
    the first time I read this article several months ago it was quite depressing I thought there no way I can do that, I was doing 3 x week 20 to 30 min. Now I do 5 or 6 x week, at least 60 min. feels great! - 3/2/2016   1:23:43 AM
    I read this article and thought OMGosh that is a LOT of exercise. It is hard to do and it has to become a lifestyle change. I am not there yet, but I hope to be!! - 2/22/2016   11:54:57 AM
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    nch - just take off the bracket after "http:") It shows how to get more energy from your food, burn fat, generate more power in your body, reduce stress. Detox your body and soothe away anxiety with high quality sleep, tap into an unlimited source of hidden energy available to each one of us. Plus gain extra clarity, focus and powerful intention. - 2/1/2016   8:23:53 PM
  • 1285
    Fifty minutes of exercise 5 days a week seems like ALOT. Maybe if you are an actress with a team of people to dress, feed and coach you. But for us mere mortals, to exercise 50 minutes a day, plus the time to prep and clean up after, really cuts into already limited time.

    I lose weight running for 45 minutes three times a week. - 1/29/2016   5:41:32 PM
  • 1284
    My workouts are 45 minutes. But the first 22 minutes of Cardio is High Intensity Interval Training which they say is getting alot more out of my 22 minutes than a low-moderate intensity exercise. The rest of the time is a higher paced weight lifting routine where I am lifting to the extent I can, so getting an amazing workout. I also stretch every day for 10-20minutes but don't count this as exercise. I have about 40lbs to lose so I'm hoping this is enough but it's just so complicated. Also my work is very active. I clean hotel rooms for a living which is go go go all day and I sweat quite a bit. I eat about 2000 calories a day. I hope I'm/Sparkpeople is doing this calculation right as it should result in weight loss. - 12/7/2015   1:49:03 AM
  • 1283
    I try to keep moving all day long. I use my Wii fit U, and my Walk It Out Wii game. Also, exercising during commercials on tv, a person can get over 10 minutes of continuous exercise. If I am standing in line, i keep my feet moving. People sometimes look at me funny, but hey that's okay. I always give them a big smile! :D - 11/1/2015   7:35:23 PM
    Challenging!! Some days I am struggling for 10 - 20 min/day. Others - an hour seems appropriate. Overall, I think that as long as I keep exercising - even if only for 10-min sometimes, that this puts me on a track to feel positive and try to increase the time lengths. Sometimes, too I judge length on basis of achiness, or physical issues that warn me to be moderate or go for it. I want weight loss,yes, but I am also trying to get a healthy body. - 10/29/2015   3:09:38 PM
  • 1281
    If you can exercise while watching your TV shows, there is no excuse not to get your fitness in. If you want weight loss, you will find a way - 9/15/2015   9:31:34 PM
  • 1280
    Huh? Where is the food intake in this equation? The rule still goes that you cannot out-exercise your fork. - 9/15/2015   3:25:25 PM
  • BARBARA1934
    I need more than 30 minutes a day to maintain - 9/15/2015   2:00:13 PM
  • 1278
    this is such a convuluted presentation of the minutes. 250 minutes per week (a week being 7 days, not 5) is only 35 minutes a day. The results indicate more than that is when you get "significant" weight loss. So, 50 minutes PER DAY is my goal. And cutting back on food, yes, has a significant impact but that's harder to keep calories low than it is to add cardio counting exercise.

    As far as not having the time, how much time do you spend surfing on the internet? watching TV? reading a book? Something's got to give - 9/15/2015   1:48:41 PM
  • 1277
    If I'm walking, I need to do at least 15,000 steps a day most days to lose weight regularly. A few less if I add pool work. I can maintain on less, but I need to really watch it! That's on top of eating well and diligent tracking! - 9/15/2015   9:40:20 AM
  • 1276
    I've been doing about 45 minutes 5 days a week (and it's working). Adding in strength training the past month or so means I sometimes spend 90 minutes in the gym... it's a big commitment. But I feel AMAZING when I'm done exercising. - 9/15/2015   8:56:17 AM
  • 1275
    It is not always easy to fit in that much time for exercise but lately I have found that if I just get up 10 minutes earlier and make time at lunch the minutes add up a bit quicker. The weather is getting cooler so evening exercise is more enjoyable too. - 9/15/2015   8:50:30 AM
  • 1274
    I exercise 30-40 minutes every day! It helps me not only feel great but I have managed to somewhat keep the weight off for over 5 years now! Happy Exercising and staying healthy everyone! - 9/15/2015   8:46:20 AM
  • 1273
    It's not realistic for me. But...I just do my best and keep going forward! I'm losing weight, albeit slowly, but as long as it's going down I'm happy. - 9/15/2015   5:47:34 AM
  • 1272
    Folk have to work and eat and sleep and have a normal life. No one ever seems to think of the time needed to keep family and friends together, or give home related jobs that can fit the exercise bill. I need help to see how keeping home jobs can help - 9/15/2015   2:54:11 AM
  • 1271
    if you're really badly out of shape, that is a lot... but i think it's a good number to work up to - 8/7/2015   8:33:36 PM
  • VIKI593
    30 mins is alos what u need to take care is of ur diet, esp sugar and food u r taking.. - 8/7/2015   4:39:02 PM
  • 1269
    It sounds about right to me. And the great thing is that "exercise" doesn't have to feel like exercise. You're doing house while you vacuum, sweep or mop, stretch for those sneaky spiderwebs in the high corners. Everyone has things they "have" to do, so why not use it and take out two birds with one stone? Any activity that raises your heart rate to the right level constitutes as cardio. =) - 8/7/2015   10:08:48 AM
  • 1268
    I started walking at least 60mins a day! I'm now going to incorporate strength training into the mix to see if I lose any weight. I haven't seen a loss yet but here's to hoping. - 7/14/2015   2:21:35 PM
    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

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