How much exercise is needed for weight loss?

Exercise or any form of physical activity is good for obese or overweight people; even exercise below the recommended levels and household work is good! Physical activity helps in decreasing their risk factors for metabolic syndrome and heart disease by reducing blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure; as little as  four minutes of HICT workout has been shown to help in this regard.

But when it comes to losing weight with exercise, much more effort is needed:

Exercise without diet restriction:

  • Physical activity or exercise less than 150 minutes/week promotes minimum weight loss
  • Moderate intensity aerobic exercise up to 150 minutes/week alone will lead to weight loss of  2-3 kilograms, and prevent weight gain
  • For significant weight loss (5-7.5 kg or more) with exercise alone 225-420 minutes/week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise is needed (45-60 minutes of moderate exercise per day)
  • To maintain weight after a weight loss program, 200-300 minutes/week of moderate intensity exercise is needed
  • Resistance exercise (strength training) does not promote weight loss, but leads to loss of body fat and gain of fat free mass, and improves functional status and the health risk parameters

Diet and exercise together:

  • The recommended level of exercise for healthy adults (150 minutes/week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise) when combined with moderate calorie restriction (500 calories/day)  has significant impact on weight loss (up to 10% of body weight) and on weight maintenance
  • Exercise combined with severe calorie restriction ( ~ 1000 calories/day) does not have any additional impact on weight loss than diet restriction alone

How does exercise help in maintaining the weight loss?

Physical activity appears to be crucial to maintain the weight loss.

  • Aerobic exercise >200 minutes/week, along with resistance training 2-3 times a week is recommended.
  • Low intensity physical activity such as long easy walks, work of household etc. are associated with long term weight maintenance

Which exercises should be your weight loss exercise plan include?

  • Aerobic exercises:
    • Walking is the most often self or doctor prescribed physical activity for weight loss in India. While any exercise is good for health benefits, you will need to walk for at least hour an hour per day at moderate intensity (55-69% of your maximum heart rate) AND have a calorie restricted diet to lose weight
    • Cycling, jogging, swimming are all good exercises, but you should take care to not burn yourself out by doing too much too soon
    • People with significant obesity should seek their doctor’s advice especially for cardiac and orthopedic clearance before they start exercising, take the PARQ test to see if you must see your doctor before embarking on regular exercise
    • Check out : Aerobic exercise for beginners
  • HICT or ‘7 Minute’ workout: this newer form of workout needs less time, can be done at home and has been shown to work for weight loss
  • Strength training: strength training is not the mainstay recommendation for weight loss, but has additional benefits when done in addition to aerobic exercise. It helps in gaining muscle mass, losing fat and improving functionality
  • Lifestyle activities or unstructured physical activity: studies have reported that consumption of as little as 10-100 calories per day in excess of calorie needed in the long term can lead to weight gain. Therefore activities done at home, commute or at work place would logically help in preventing weight gain and also in weight loss. The research points to such as effect; increasing your pedometer step count by nearly 2500/day, can help in losing modest amount of weight loss

Different weight loss workouts and how they fare in burning calories

Minutes of continuous activity needed to burn 300 calories
Activity Weight in kilograms
60 80 100
Stationary 61 44 36
Outdoor (leisure) 76 55 45
Walking (level)
2.5 mph 102 73 60
3.0 mph 87 63 52
3.5 mph 76 55 45
Water aerobics 76 55 45
Lap swimming 38 28 23
Yoga 76 55 45
Resistance exercise 51 37 30
Aerobic dance 51 37 30
Low-impact  aerobic dance 61 44 36
Ballroom dance (fast) 56 40 33
Ballroom dance (slow) 102 73 60
Lifestyle activities
Golf (walking) 68 49 40
Raking the lawn 76 55 45
Lawn mowing
Walking power mower 68 49 40
Riding mower 122 88 72
Vacuuming/sweeping 122 88 72
Source: file:///C:/Users/Binita%20Jha/Downloads/ACSM%20wt%20loss%20postion.pdf

To know the benefits of exercise on health overall, go to ‘Health benefits of exercise

CHECK OUT: Our references for exercise recommendations

CHECK OUT: Our references for recommendations on weight management