Are you wondering how much exercise a day for weight loss will cost you? If so, you’re not alone. Many people who want to lose weight wonder if they’ll be able to afford to live at the same time and just give up on the whole thing. If you’re searching “how much exercise a day for weight loss” or something like this, I have good news! It’s possible that you can have a healthy body, lose weight and save money too — and I’m going to tell you how.
Weekly Exercise Recommendations
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both recommend that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days per week or more. This recommendation averages out to about 150 minutes per week. If you prefer more vigorous activity per week, three or more 20-minute sessions (60 minutes) will help you meet your goal.
The ACSM and CDC also recommend engaging in strength training activities a minimum of twice weekly. These activities should hit all of the major muscle groups, working the upper body, lower body, and core.
To reduce your body weight by 5% or more, or to maintain your recent weight loss, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that a minimum of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity weekly may be needed.
If you modestly (not drastically) reduce your calorie intake in addition to exercise, this rate of physical activity per week is likely to improve your weight loss results. Of course, it depends on your starting baseline, changes in dietary habits, and your individual response to these exercises and dietary changes, says Jason Machowsky, RD, CSSD, a sports dietitian and registered clinical exercise physiologist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Tisch Sports Performance Center.
Once you’ve reached your goal weight, the CDC suggests continuing to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a mixture of the two. However, remember that this amount varies by person. Some people may need more exercise to maintain their weight.
Daily Exercise Guide for Weight Loss
Weight loss is achieved through the basic means of calories in (or calories consumed) versus calories out (or calories burned), explains Jennifer Sobel, NASM-certified personal trainer. In other words, if you consume fewer calories than you’ve burned in a day, you will achieve weight loss.
“One of the biggest issues is that people often wind up eating more because they think that if they exercise that day it entitles them to eat more food because they burn more calories,” Sobel says. “The thing is, we often burn a lot [fewer] calories exercising than we think, and it’s not hard to eat those equivalent calories we burned off in a workout, and then some.”
We often burn a lot [fewer] calories exercising than we think, and it’s not hard to eat those equivalent calories we burned off in a workout, and then some.
If you are hoping to lose weight, aiming to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week is a healthy weight loss goal.5 Losing 1 pound of weight generally requires that you burn about 3,500 calories.6 But keep in mind that trying to lose 1 pound of fat with exercise alone can be difficult and time-consuming for some people. For that reason, you may want to combine diet and exercise to reach the right calorie deficit for weight loss.
How Much Exercise Is Needed For Weight Loss
Because the road to weight loss can look a little different for every individual, the best way to determine how much exercise you need to support your weight-loss efforts is to first calculate your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, Sobel says.
Your BMR measures the amount of calories your body needs to perform the most basic functions like breathing, circulation, and cell production. Once you determine how much of a caloric deficit you need each day to reach your weight-loss goals, you can then create an exercise regimen that affords you this deficit.
Why Exercise Is Important to Weight Loss
Not only does exercise burn calories and help you create the daily deficit that will yield results, but it also helps build muscle and reduce body fat, explains Daniels.
“Muscle uses more energy than fat, which means that the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories your body will naturally burn,” he says.
What’s more, research has found that muscle tissue contributes to an estimated 20% of total calories burned in a day versus 5% for fat tissue.7 So, in addition to exercise creating a calorie deficit that helps you lose weight, building muscle too can assist in burning more calories during periods of rest.
30-Minute Workout Does the Trick
In the study, researchers followed 60 moderately overweight men who wanted to lose weight. The men were randomly put into either a moderate or high aerobic exercise group.
The high-exercise group was instructed to exercise hard enough to produce a sweat, like from running or cycling, for 60 minutes a day. The moderate group only had to sweat for 30 minutes a day.
After 13 weeks, the study showed 30 minutes of exercise a day produced similar or even better results than 60 minutes a day.
The men who exercised 30 minutes a day lost an average of 2 pounds more of body weight than those who worked out for an hour.
Researchers say those who exercised 30 minutes a day actually burned more calories than they should have according to their exercise program.
In contrast, the men who exercised 60 minutes a day lost less body weight relative to the energy they burned during their workouts. The extra 30 minutes of exercise did not appear to provide any additional weight loss in body weight or fat.
More Benefits From Shorter Workouts
Researchers say the results suggest that 30 minutes of exercise a day may provide additional weight loss benefits.
For example, people may still have extra energy leftover after shorter workouts to be more physically active throughout the day.
In addition, researchers say the men who exercised for 60 minutes a day probably ate more to compensate for the longer workout session and therefore lost less weight.
To Lose Weight With Exercise, Aim for 300 Minutes a Week
Overweight men and women who exercised six days a week lost weight; those who worked out twice a week did not.
Can exercise help us shed pounds? An interesting new study involving overweight men and women found that working out can help us lose weight, in part by remodeling appetite hormones. But to benefit, the study suggests, we most likely have to exercise a lot — burning at least 3,000 calories a week. In the study, that meant working out six days a week for up to an hour, or around 300 minutes a week.
The relationship between working out and our waistlines is famously snarled. The process seems as if it should be straightforward: We exercise, expend calories and, if life and metabolisms were just, develop an energy deficit. At that point, we would start to use stored fat to fuel our bodies’ continuing operations, leaving us leaner.
But our bodies are not always cooperative. Primed by evolution to maintain energy stores in case of famine, our bodies tend to undermine our attempts to drop pounds. Start working out and your appetite rises, so you consume more calories, compensating for those lost.
The upshot, according to many past studies of exercise and weight loss, is that most people who start a new exercise program without also strictly monitoring what they eat do not lose as much weight as they expect — and some pack on pounds.
But Kyle Flack, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Kentucky, began to wonder a few years ago if this outcome was inevitable. Maybe, he speculated, there was a ceiling to people’s caloric compensations after exercise, meaning that if they upped their exercise hours, they would compensate for fewer of the lost calories and lose weight.
For a study published in 2018, he and his colleagues explored that idea, asking overweight, sedentary men and women to start exercising enough that they burned either 1,500 or 3,000 calories a week during their workouts. After three months, the researchers checked everyone’s weight loss, if any, and used metabolic calculations to determine how many calories the volunteers had consumed in compensation for their exertions.
The total, it turned out, was an average of about 1,000 calories a week of compensatory eating, no matter how much people had worked out. By that math, the men and women who had burned 1,500 calories a week with exercise had clawed back all but about 500 calories a week of their expenditures, while those burning through 3,000 calories with exercise ended up with a net weekly deficit of about 2,000 calories. (No one’s overall metabolic rate changed much.)
Unsurprisingly, the group exercising the most lost weight; the others did not.
But that study left many questions unanswered, Dr. Flack felt. The participants had performed similar, supervised workouts, walking moderately for 30 or 60 minutes, five times a week. Would varying lengths or frequencies of workouts matter to people’s caloric compensation? And what was driving people’s eating? Did the differing amounts of exercise affect people’s appetite hormones differently?
Losing Weight Slowly and Steadily
Maybe you’re aiming to lose 10 pounds in as little time as a month. Creating that 35,000-calorie deficit in only 30 days would require you to burn an additional 1,166 calories every day! That’s not a very realistic goal.
That’s OK, though. Losing weight slowly means you’ll be more likely to keep it off. Aim for losing 1 to 2 pounds a week, which means you could lose 10 pounds within five to 10 weeks. To achieve this, you would need to create a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories a day, which is much more realistic.
Exercise: Getting the Right Amount
Healthy adults need 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, every week, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Some individuals trying to lose weight will need as much as 300 minutes a day (approximately one hour five days a week with two rest days, or 42 minutes a day, seven days a week).
If you’re not cutting calories from your diet, you need at least 1 hour of exercise a day for a weight loss of 1 pound a week. A 154-pound person can burn more than 500 calories in an hour doing such vigorous activities as running, bicycling or swimming laps. One hour of these activities (or an equivalent activity) every day for 10 weeks will lead to a 10-pound loss.
So, how much exercise do you need to lose 20 pounds? In theory, you could continue your deficit of 500 calories a day for 20 weeks, but, as already noted, weight loss is complicated. Your body will adjust to your new lifestyle, and you may need to increase your efforts to continue burning fat.