How much exercise do you actually need to lose weight? 20 minutes of HIIT three times per week? Half-hour run per day? An hour walk once a week? And how much is too much?
There's plenty of advice out there on how much and how best to exercise for weight loss, yet it's often conflicting.
Let’s go over the (sometimes) mysterious amount of exercise that is ideal for losing weight.
What's The Minimum Amount Of Exercise?
In the UK, the NHS recommends that women aged 19-64 achieve a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week.
Examples of moderate intensity activities include:
Riding a bike
Walking up the stairs
Examples of vigorous intensity activities include:
Jogging or running
Riding a bike fast or on hills
Sports (e.g., football, rugby, netball, hockey)
Heavy weight training
Of course, you’re going to have to start from where you are right now. If you’re not already exercising regularly, there is no need to go overboard. In fact, trying too much too soon may derail your motivation and result in giving up altogether.
10 minutes is the minimum amount of time you need to get the benefits of exercise. Therefore, start with 10-20 minutes of any activity and work your way up. If you’ve been living a sedentary life, or if you have medical conditions that limit your activity, you need to ease yourself into fitness first and see how your body responds.
Daily Exercise Guide for Weight Loss
Losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is a healthy and sustainable weight loss target. Losing 1 pound of weight generally requires that you burn about 3,500 calories. If you divide that by 7 days, you need to burn (i.e., create a calorie deficit of) 500 calories each day to lose 1 pound a week.
Choose your favourite activity and see how much exercise you'll need per day to lose a pound of body fat. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kilograms) would need to perform these activities to lose 1 pound of body fat in a week:
Running: 40 minutes per day
Walking: 2 hours per day
Weight Lifting: 1.5 hours per day
Swimming: 40 minutes per day
Biking: 1 hour per day
Aerobics: 1 hour per day
If you're wondering how much exercise it would take to burn 1 pound of body fat for a different type of exercise, you can use the activity calculator below. This information is essential in helping you set your daily exercise goals for weight loss.
It's important to mention that trying to lose 1 pound of fat with exercise alone can be difficult and time-consuming. Therefore, combining diet and exercise to reach the right calorie deficit for weight loss is ideal.
How To Design Your Exercise Plan
Everyone is unique and has their individual preferences. Therefore, one's exercise plan needs to accommodate those preferences to be successful. It is pointless to commit to three running sessions per week if you don't like running! If you must force yourself to do it, there is a high probability that you will not stick with it and give up exercising altogether. The main rule is to begin with where you are. Take note of your fitness level and your goals, then increase and improve slowly. There really is no quick fix, at least no quick fix that will give you lasting long-term results.
Always consider what is reasonably sustainable for you, based on:
1. What is your long-term weight loss goal?
2. What else is going on in your life (i.e., how much time do you really have)?
3. What is your current state of fitness?
As you create a sustainable exercise habit, it will start getting easier. Therefore, continue to make it a bit more challenging as you progress. Every workout should provide you with an opportunity to push yourself a bit farther than you were before. If you are strength training, do another repetition or grab the next heavier weight. If you are doing cardio, go a bit longer, farther, and/or faster.
A great motivational tool is to log your workouts. A simple journal or app will do. Regardless of the form it comes in, it can be extremely useful in helping you track workout metrics (e.g., reps, sets, times, etc.) and provides you with a tangible view of your progress.
After several weeks you can stop and evaluate. Keep going the way you are, ramp it up, or change it completely. Eventually, you will find yourself getting stronger, healthier, and in more control of your weight.
Don't Forget Your Nutrition
While exercise is a helpful tool for weight loss and very good for your health, wellness, and longevity, it’s not the only thing to consider. What you eat is going to have a great, if not greater, impact on your weight loss journey.
My favourite yet simple nutrition tips that I recommend to my weight loss clients are:
● Eat more fruits and vegetables (minimum of 5 servings a day).
● Swap carbonated drinks for water with fruit.
● Cut your treats and sweets in half (and hide half) before indulging.
● Reduce the serving size of your main meals by using a smaller plate.
● Eat slower and savour meals more by chewing each bite of food more thoroughly.
● Carry around unsweetened fibre-rich snacks like nuts, fruit, and seeds when on the go.
You don’t need to exercise excessively to reach your weight loss goals. Simply start from where you are, and don’t go overboard. If you’re a beginner, that means 10 - 20 minutes every other day at an easy level. Slowly increase the difficulty every week and log your workout progress to track improvements and stay motivated.
Aim to create a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day to achieve 1 pound of weight loss per week. This can be done through exercise alone but will be more achievable when combined with a healthy diet. Adopting a healthier diet can consist of something as simple as eating more veggies, reducing your portion sizes, and carrying around healthy snacks (e.g., sliced apple, raw almonds) whenever you're on the go.
If you need support and guidance while on your weight loss journey, book your free consultation with me today.