How Much Exercise Do You REALLY Need to Lose Weight?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  1328 comments   :  1,387,642 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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  • 1328
    I agree with many folks here.

    1. This is an old article (although I recently saw research that backed up its claim).

    2. Weight loss is mostly about diet. Exercise is great, but diet is the key. SO, without seeing what the people in the study were eating, the article seems incomplete.

    3. I know for me it's true that without a LOT of exercise, my weight moves downward very slowly.

    So...this article might be true for you...or it might not. - 10/3/2016   9:33:27 AM
    I've exercised more than fours a week at times (sometime even much more so) and I still could not lose a pound. - 8/24/2016   2:25:46 AM
  • TACTAC20
    Why am I not receiving any more daily messages etc. on my email? - 8/20/2016   4:49:01 PM
  • 1325
    The article didn't mention what kind of diets the people were on in the study. It also didn't mention the body types, gender or any health or hormonal issues the people in the study were / have. I think 250 minutes can be a lot. I shoot for an hour a day at least four times a week or more, but that is hard to find time for - and I don't have kids. I think your diet, plus the type of exercising you do is very important when it comes to weight loss, not just the amount of time. Not to mention, rest is important too. - 7/22/2016   3:35:49 PM
    I am a few months from 70, and I exercise 6 days a week. Sometimes I do 2 1 hour classes a day. And most days I walk a mile or two besides. I am overweight, in some of my classes other overweight people also take them. Don't say overweight people are lazy or inactive this may not be the case. Some of us have hormonal abnormalities that make it harder to take weight off.

    It is not right to be judged by looks. - 7/3/2016   10:15:58 PM
  • 1323
    We need to remember to check the dates on articles. This article is 3 years old. Information this old may be obsolete. It always goes back to calories consumed and calories burned. Exercise helps with weight loss but is not necessary. Check success stories on SP. There are those who have lost a large amount of weight and not exercised. Here is an example :
    - 7/3/2016   7:42:33 PM
  • 1322
    I don't know about that. I started with 20 minutes a day 7 days a week, which is 140 minutes a week, and did that for a good few months, then upped it to 30 minutes a day 7 days a week, which is 210 minutes a week. I went from 335 lbs. to 185 lbs. in 9 months. Of course, I was also on a very healthy diet. What I did worked for me. - 7/3/2016   7:03:21 PM
    I think it is better to rely on calorie deficit to loose weight, exercise is for fitness, yes you will also burn calories but exercise alone isn't enough. - 7/3/2016   7:00:17 PM
    I walk 10,000 steps a day watch what I eat and exercise 30 minutes a day and drink 90 ounces of water a day and I seem to be loosing weight. - 7/3/2016   6:54:46 PM
  • 1319
    For someone who might be struggling to balance a full time job,travelling to and from work, raise a family, look after the house, etc this could be the thing that will make them say forget it if they read it. And that is the problem with articles like this. It is very easy to say you need this, but unfortunately many people have to juggle so many things every day on top of trying to lose weight. They might see 50 minutes of cardio AND strength training and say forget it - there are not enough hours in the day to commit to that. And they give up before they start. I think articles like this do more to hinder weight loss than help it. I found way, way easier to work at losing weight and getting healthy once my kids were older, but trying to work full time, look after the home, raise small kids is hard and even harder if you have a long commute to get to and from work. Then add it picking kids up from daycare, getting dinner on the table, helping with homework and the list can go on and on. Many parents feel overwhelmed as it is and trying to find another hour + per day if you count the strength training part is very difficult. We need to find ways to encourage people to get healthy in a realistic way and not shut the process down with articles such as this. - 7/3/2016   6:46:56 PM
  • 1318
    The reason you should exercise is to be healthy, NOT to lose weight. We have our priorities all wrong. We should eat right and exercise because it's good for us and makes us feel better, that's it. Doing these things just to look "better" is a fools goal and will result in, well, no long lasting results. When I exercise regularly I feel better, when I eat healthy I feel better so I am trying to do both so I can keep up with my grandkids and live an active life. I will probably lose weight which will also make me feel better so it's a win, win! - 6/29/2016   8:21:21 PM
    It's simple.... exercise is great for improving your body and general health, energy, and well-being. But, exercise will not help you lose weight unless you modify your diet and calorie intake... Burning enough calories to lose weight without changing food intake is just not possible for most people. The old saying is true... "you can't outrun your fork." - 6/23/2016   4:26:34 AM
  • BRIMAR56
    I am proof that you do not need to exercise to lose weight. I dropped 25 pounds by counting calories; however, I definitely do believe you need to exercise as well as eat right to maintain the weight loss. I quit smoking and let myself go and gained 32 pounds. Exercise definitely gives you more leeway in being able to eat a tad more freely. - 6/17/2016   2:31:15 PM
  • 1315
    I do work out every day, ate least 60-90 minutes.
    Still, if I eat more than my allotment, I gain weight.
    If I work out 2-3 hours for fun while on vacation, but eat a bit more and unusual food, I still gain.
    I never lost weigh because of exercising more than usual. - 6/17/2016   9:49:53 AM
  • 1314
    I believe it is possible to lose weight with no exercise at all, just by eating right.
    Of course, exercise makes it more fun and easier,
    but I don't think it is mandatory for weight loss.
    Eating right matters so much more! - 6/17/2016   9:46:55 AM
  • RUSHER244593
    I have been happy with my weight loss with 150 or more of moderate exercise per week. Some of the exercise I do is vigirous so that is an added support but I find that I have been losing inches instead of weight which makes me feel good. I figured if I had the ability to make my own meals I could do better but thats only half of it. I do eat a lot better now than I have in a long time. - 6/17/2016   1:51:35 AM
  • 1312
    I exercise at least 250 to 300 minutes a week if not more, but I don't loose weight unless I adjust diet. I have to learn to eat for the weight I want, and its not easy. - 6/15/2016   11:00:16 AM
  • 1311
    This article is so out of touch it's ridiculous. It's targeted to "overweight and obese" people.

    Overweight and obese people may not be physically capable of 50 minutes a day! It's like asking a normal person to run a marathon or triathlon with no training or prep work at all! That's just not going to happen!

    Most "overweight or obese" people are so sedentary, if they did 50 minutes one day, they would be so sore/achy the next day they would be incapable of exercise for a few days. Then they are "behind", and "off track", and now the pressure is on to do 75 a day, because they missed, and they get depressed and feel like they can't do it, and... you get the idea.

    It's far more important to do SOMETHING each day, if only for 5 minutes, and make exercise a daily *habit*, and work the volume up bit by bit as you are able, than to try to do a ridiculous amount that is just beyond your capability.
    - 6/15/2016   10:06:58 AM
  • 1310
    I'm a believer in strength and fitness. I still do not lose weight unless I limit my calories. - 6/15/2016   10:01:14 AM
    I've been running for over 8 years, in 2011 and 2012 peaking at about 870 miles per year. I'm not sure what that translates to in minutes, but I lost essentially no weight between 2008 when I started and 2012. My other numbers improved dramatically (BP, fasting glucose, lipids). I injured my knee in 2013 and for a while, I could barely even walk, and ended the year with less than 500 miles. I may have gained a few pound, but not a lot. In 2014 and 2015, I guess I got about 600 miles per year, or about 300 minutes per week including other exercise activity, according to my Fitbit. I lost no weight and in fact gained a few more pounds. In October last year, I did a half marathon, finishing in 2:27. I determined that in order to improve my time, I would need to run a lot more, AND control my nutrition better, if I wanted to see both results in weight loss and time improvement. To that end, I've doubled my weekly mileage, monitored my intake very closely (2000 calories per day, strictly, 30% fat, 35-40% carb, and 30-35% protein). My weekly exercise minutes are floating around 450-500 now, with much of that being vigorous running, plus a nice mile to two mile cool down walk. So far, I'm just shy of 600 miles for the's run will put me over the mark. I'm also down 44 pounds since Jan 1, with 6 pounds left until I'm at the high end of my target range, and 9 until I'm at the lower end. I'm also pleased to report that my 5k PR has improved from 27:20ish to 25:11. The moral of the story is that it takes a lot of exercise and focus on nutrition in order to lose serious weight. Not one exclusive of the other. You CAN lose weight by dieting alone, but you won't get healthy. You CAN lose weight by exercise alone but it takes a lot more than 300 minutes per week of vigorous exercise if you want to do that. If your idea of exercise to lose weight is to just walk without adjusting your nutrition habits, plan on walking 800-1000 minutes per week, unless you are satisfied with losing weight at the rate of a couple ounces per week. Finally, once you've lost the weight, I'm convinced that continued diligence is required on both the exercise and nutritional fronts if you want to keep off any weight that you've lost. That is especially important for those of us who have, in the past, found our weight in the obese category. Also, be careful not to rely only on BMI as your measure of obesity. Look into your body fat percentage as well. I'm now in the "average" category, down from mildly obese, and 1-2% body fat away from the "Fit" category...which I will achieve in 6-9 pounds. BUT, even there, I would be considered overweight on the BMI scales, yet I can outrun many who are considered healthy as far as BMI goes, but don't exercise. - 6/15/2016   9:23:32 AM
  • 1308
    I find it much easier to lose weight exercising than restricting my diet. Swimming and riding my bike is playing. Restricting food gives me a headache and makes me tired and irritable. When seriously trying to lose weight, I aim for a minimum of 300 calories burned through exercise each day. - 6/15/2016   8:56:25 AM
  • 1307
    The last time I steadily lost weight I was limiting myself to 1200 calories a day, while taking kickboxing and karate for a combined total of nine hours of hard working out each week. It took a year to lose ten pounds (I know some of that was muscle gain, but I dropped two sizes only for a year of effort). I fully believe that the more you exercise, the more weight you will lose. That just seems common sense, and for most sedentary people, that sounds right. But for those of us who are already on our feet all day long (10 hour work shifts, standing the whole time)...I'm already getting in 17,000 to 23,000 steps a day and the last thing I want to do some days is work out more! - 6/15/2016   8:07:27 AM
  • 1306
    This article was written in 2013, much has changed since then regarding required minutes, exercise, name it. The thing about 50 minutes, well it is an intimidating number...and it is a lot. At least five times a week I exercise on average 40+ minutes a day. Often this is doing two entirely different workout routines that are 20+ minutes. This is not where I began my journey, I was morbidly obese and had both knees replaced when I was 47. I was the furthest thing from fit, or healthy. It took a concerted effort to find my fit, I started slowly and built from there. I am talking 10 or 15 minute workouts...the thing is, once I began working out, I finished every routine I ever started. Working out at home works for me, I love the flexibity and variety that are offered on YouTube. There are options that are mindful of our health, size, limitations. Typically we each become our biggest hurdle. Make changes you can live with...that make sense and seem reasonable to you. Listen to and respect what your body tells you it needs. Exercise is a key component in any healthy living puzzle. Find your fit, wake up your inner athlete. Did not even know I had one until I was 56, now that girl loves to play. Exercise your strong, it will not disappoint. - 6/15/2016   7:16:18 AM
  • 1305
    It sounds a lot, but my weightloss is really slow and I have noticed that it is better on weeks when I excercise more. I think I probably need to excercise more for better weightloss. I don't think I would have in my 20's or 30's but now I suspect that figure is right for me. - 6/15/2016   6:50:15 AM
    If I gain a few pounds, I take it off by limiting my calories to 1600 per day and walking 5-7 times a week for at least 30 minutes. After a few weeks I begin to see results. - 6/15/2016   6:14:50 AM
  • 1303
    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
  • 1301
    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
  • 1300
    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
  • 1299
    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
  • 1298
    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
  • 1297
    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
  • 1296
    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
  • 1295
    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
  • 1294
    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
  • 1293
    This is what it takes for me. Track my stats. - 3/2/2016   9:58:15 AM
  • 1292
    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
  • 1291
    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
  • 1290
    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
  • 1288
    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
  • 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

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