How Much Exercise Do You REALLY Need to Lose Weight?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/10/2013 6:00 AM   :  1252 comments   :  1,085,658 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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  • 1252
    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
  • 1251
    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
  • 1250
    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
  • 1249
    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
  • 1248
    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
  • 1247
    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
  • 1245
    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
  • 1241
    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
  • 1240
    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
    Strength training in particular can be really effective AND efficient. Just a few minutes of strength training a few times a week is all you need. The most important things is to approach your weight loss as a combination of habits that promote your overall health. Any weight loss plan MUST follow that principle to be truly effective. In fact, check out the following article that does a fantastic job of explaining the key factors in a successful and long-term weight loss plan: - 5/1/2015   3:52:36 PM
  • 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
  • 1229
    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
  • 1220
    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
  • 1217
    It really does make a difference... I lost 20 lbs in the first six months of working out 30-40 minutes a day... Once I read this blog at the beginning of September I started working out fifty minutes a day and lost twenty more lbs in the next three months. They are right.

    Also, I know what it's like to be incredibly busy, but I decided that my health and exercise are non-negotiables... I will work out before doing anything else I want to do, even if I'm exhausted.

    Excuses, for me, are what made me gain the weight in the first place. Therefore the excuses had to stop for the weight to come off. Only fifteen more pounds to go! - 2/25/2015   7:54:49 AM
  • 1216
    I think this seems unrealistic. I struggle to squeeze my 20 or 30 minutes of Zumba (or walking) in a day. Between physical limitations (fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease in my c-spine), and other responsibilities (kids, hour each way commute, cooking/preparing meals, homework (mine and theirs), and spending time with my boyfriend) where does one squeeze this in with out giving up sleep, or other things that are important to my phsyical or mental health. - 2/25/2015   7:38:25 AM
  • 1215
    I generally workout 30 - 40 minutes, five days a week. I'm not sure if working out more than that would help me lose weight any faster. I lose about 1 to 1.5 pounds a week. - 2/25/2015   7:08:56 AM
  • 1214
    I find that to lose weight I need to do about 90 mins of cardio a day in addition to strength training 3-4 days a week. So these results do not surprise me. Especially when you consider that the study says 50 mins for overweight and obese individuals. I notice that they don't say how many minutes someone with a normal BMI needs to do to lose weight. My guess is its more in-line with 75-90 mins a day. - 2/25/2015   5:19:11 AM
  • 1213
    I hope those "10 minute sessions add up" articles are right, because otherwise, the above article is rather discouraging, esp. if you have any health limitations already.
    - 2/25/2015   3:01:00 AM
  • 1212
    I'd like to be able to do this much everyday but I have other hobbies too. Lol.

    Seriously though, I don't mind busting my butt and working out but I also have a lot of other things to do. I think SP has it right by encouraging people to get at least 10 minutes in a day. - 2/23/2015   10:54:44 PM
  • 1211
    50 minutes is doable. I'm working my way up there. - 2/23/2015   4:52:51 PM
  • 1210
    I've found that I need to exercise at least 45 min per day to lose weight coupled with a calorie reduction. - 2/23/2015   2:31:33 PM
  • 1209
    I think it would be easier to look at it this way: There are 24 hours in each day; reserve 8 hours for sleep; 1 hour to get ready; 8 hours for work; 3 hours for meals; 1 hour for commuting, which leaves 3 hours to use for other activity. In that perspective, 1 hour for exercise doesn't seem too far out of reach. This will have to be tweaked for each person's own schedule but for me, it helps to make the goal not seem so far out of reach. - 2/23/2015   11:28:34 AM
  • 1208
    This sounds like something that I can work my way up to. I am still recovering from cervical / spinal surgery so my progress will be slow. - 2/23/2015   8:08:39 AM
  • 1207
    Definitely something to think about. I walk for 90 minutes a day 7 days a week but my weight loss has slowed down. So I don't know if that means I need to speed it up a bit or throw some other form of exercise in the mix - 2/14/2015   3:48:06 PM
  • 1206
    I'm just starting out and this gives me something to shoot for. Right now I can't do 50 min but I will get there! - 1/19/2015   2:46:20 PM
  • 1205
    It sounds like a lot until I realize that I do more than that. Maintenance for me has meant more exercise and not just because experts tell me too. I actually like it! Most days I get at leat 60 minutes of moderate to aggressive aerobic exercise. Strength train twice/week. Yoga at least once/week.
    And I've kept off 80 pounds for more than a year. - 1/11/2015   7:35:47 AM
  • 1204
    articles like these do way more damage than good - 1/3/2015   3:45:23 PM
  • 1203
    Pretty much what I do. However, if you are just starting to exercise this can discourage many because it would be impossible. Exercise is all about movement. Your fitness level at first may only allow you to do 10 minutes a day or less for 3 to 5 days. It is important to start off where you can and increase each week until you have increased your fitness level to do what you really need to be doing. The main goal is to get moving consistently so you want to do more. I find exercising addictive once you get into a routine. Better to start off slow and build each week then to go full throttle and break down and quit. - 12/30/2014   3:34:50 PM

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