How Much Exercise Do I Need to Do to Lose Weight?
While weight loss mainly happens in the kitchen; with the 80-20 rule talking about 20% exercise and 80% nutrition1, exercising is a key part of a healthy lifestyle. What’s more, it can assist in your weight loss goals, particularly if you take on resistance training. It’s the perfect complement to a healthy, balanced diet. But, how often should you be doing it? Let’s take a look at how much exercise you need to do to lose weight.
Why is exercise important for weight loss?
It’s important to note that exercise isn’t just about losing weight. While exercise is important for both weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight, it has many benefits for overall health as well. This includes lowering your risk of certain cancers, lowering blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health2. It also has a number of benefits for mental health, including reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
When it comes to weight loss specifically, physical activity increases the number of calories your body uses for energy3. Since a calorie deficit is needed for an individual to lose weight, exercise is a useful tool that can help you increase the amount of calories you burn per day. To help them stay on track, many individuals looking to lose weight count calories.
Does exercise increase metabolism?
Exercising can also help you keep the weight off as well. This is because it can boost metabolism, helping you burn more calories throughout the day4. This is particularly true if you take up resistance training, as building muscle mass increases your resting metabolism, meaning your body uses up more energy even when not exercising, for example carrying out daily activities, including sitting and sleeping5.
How much exercise to lose weight?
So, let’s talk numbers. How often should you be working out?
How much exercise per week?
It’s recommended you do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week6.
How much exercise per day?
There isn’t a set amount you should do a day, you can mix things up; juggling a career, social life, family commitments and other activities is never easy, especially when you throw exercise into the mix. How you choose to do your 150 minutes is up to you.
However, as a general goal, many aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day7.
How much exercise is needed for weight loss?
Any exercise is good exercise – simply increasing your general activity levels and improving on past habits is a step in the right direction. Don’t get too caught up on hitting certain timings.
However, many find it helpful to set goals. To lose a pound, you need to burn 3,500 calories, which is why many can’t lose weight doing exercise alone; you need to eat healthily too. However, exercise can definitely help you get there. It’s recommended that if you want to lose weight, shoot for at least 200 minutes (over three hours) of moderate intensity exercise per week8.
But, you shouldn’t hold yourself to anyone else’s standard. Start with what feels comfortable, and what you can fit into your daily schedule. Everyone starts somewhere! Even if you only manage 15 minutes a day at first, that’s still an improvement, and better than nothing.
What exercise counts?
The good news is that you have many options when it comes to exercise. You don’t have to do anything you don’t enjoy. In fact, you should try new things and mix it up so you don’t get bored. Cardiovascular exercise burns more calories, while strength training increases muscle mass (as mentioned).
Some of the best types of exercise you can do to lose weight include:
- Brisk walking
- Climbing the stairs
- Resistance training
Truthfully, the list goes on and on – the important thing is that you move more!
Why you should mix it up
When it comes to improving health and physical ability, research has shown that it’s important to get all four types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility9. So, don’t limit yourself to just one thing.
Don’t forget to increase NEAT
It’s not all about long gym sessions and dedicated sport. You also need to increase general daily activity levels. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy used for everything that’s not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise10. This includes walking, doing chores, gardening etc. It can significantly increase the amount of calories you burn a day!
So, even if you don’t have time to go to the gym or play a sport, try going for a walk, even if it’s just half an hour. The little changes you make will add up and make a positive difference – so start building healthy habits!
Tips to help you get the most from exercise
For many of us, exercise is a daunting prospect. But, you’d be surprised at how quickly it can become routine. Here are some tips to help you get into the swing of things.
1 – Find a workout buddy
Having a workout partner boosts motivation and makes you more likely to stick to your goals11.
2 – Have a plan
Schedule your workouts, whether that’s going in the morning, evening, or at lunch. Alternatively, you could do 10 minutes at the start of the day and 20 in the evening – it will have the same effect! This should ensure you don’t run out of time; plan workouts around your day.
You should also plan what you’re going to do, e.g. cardio one day, yoga the next. It will help you stick to things and feel less daunted by the process.
3 – Count your steps
Is one of your goals to walk more? Many try to do at least 10,000 steps a day. So, start counting your steps so you know you’re on track, whether that’s buying a pedometer or simply using your phone!
4 – Eat before you workout
While you should avoid eating just before your workout, food will give you energy, which will be necessary to perform at your best. You may find your workouts are less effective if you have an empty stomach.
5 – Don’t get over-motivated
You don’t have to do everything at once! In fact, this could cause you to run out of steam in the long run. Instead, try building things up slowly. Committing to working out for hours seven days a week isn’t realistic for most people. Don’t set goals you can’t hit.
6 – Complement exercise with diet
Don’t forget your diet will be the most important factor when it comes to weight loss. Ensure you’re eating healthy, balanced meals. Try cooking more home cooked meals and meal prepping where possible, as you’ll have more control over what you eat.
Make exercise a habit
It can take time to build lasting habits, but even the smallest change can have a big overall impact. Exercise is beneficial for both body and mind, and can be a useful tool when it comes to losing weight. Stick with it and don’t be too hard on yourself – any progress is good progress!