How Much Exercise to Lose Weight?

Weight Loss Exercise Recommendations Per Day and Per Week

minutes of exercise for weight loss

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If you want to exercise to lose weight, there are a few pitfalls you may encounter. You could exercise too much and end up overeating as a result, for instance. Or you may not work out enough and, therefore, not see any results on the scale.

So how much exercise is needed to lose weight? Researchers and medical experts provide weight loss exercise recommendations per day and per week, not only for losing weight but also to prevent weight regain

Weekly Exercise Recommendations

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) jointly recommend that, for good health, adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days per week or more (150 minutes per week). If the activity is vigorous, the suggestion is 20-minute sessions three or more days per week (60 minutes weekly).

The ACSM and CDC further 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.

However, if your goal is to reduce your body weight by 5% or more, or you've lost a lot of weight and want to keep it off, 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. The number of calories you need to lose weight is determined by your age, sex, and activity level.

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, this amount varies by person, so you may need more to maintain your weight.

Daily Exercise Guide for Weight Loss

Aiming to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week is a healthy weight loss goal. Losing 1 pound of weight generally requires that you burn about 3,500 calories. Choose your favorite activity and see how much exercise you'll need per day to lose a pound of body fat.

For example, a 150-pound person would need to perform these activities to lose a pound of body fat:

  • Running: 40 minutes per day
  • Walking: 2 hours per day
  • Vigorous swimming: 40 minutes per day
  • Biking: 1 hour per day
  • Intense aerobics classes: 1 hour per day

If you're curious about how much exercise it would take to burn 1 pound of body fat for a different type of exercise, you can use an activity calculator. This information can help you set your daily exercise goals for weight loss.

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.

Creating the Right Exercise Routine for You

How do you know whether you should set weekly or daily exercise goals if you're trying to lose weight? The answer to this question depends on your desired workout routine.

If You Like Shorter Workouts

If you prefer shorter workouts, daily exercise is probably best for you. By working out for 20 to 35 minutes every day, you'll meet the expert recommendations for weight loss. Exercising every day will also help you make your exercise habit stick.

Get up a bit earlier every morning and complete your exercise before even starting your day. Or use half of your lunch hour to go for a brisk walk. Another option is to hit the gym every day on your way home from work. This helps you hit your weekly goal by doing a little each day.

To shorten your strength training sessions, work out different parts of the body on different days. Do upper body one day and lower body the next, for instance. This helps you hit all of your muscle groups without spending hours in the gym.

If You Want to Work Out Fewer Days Per Week

Sometimes daily workouts aren't realistic. Maybe your workweek is hectic or you are busy with kids' activities every night. You might choose to work out every other day. If you exercise fewer days during the week, each workout needs to be longer.

For example, if you do one 60 minute workout on the weekend and two 45 minute sessions during the week, you can skip a few days of exercise and still meet the guidelines for weight loss exercise.

You can even do double workouts on certain days. For example, you might take a brisk walk in the morning as one workout, then do some strength training at lunchtime or after dinner.

Keep in mind that it's hard to build an exercise habit if you don't work out regularly. Give yourself some leeway when you have a tight schedule, but still strive to hit the minimum recommendations for exercise each week.

If You Want a Mixture of Both

You can also vary your workouts to burn enough calories to lose weight. For example, if you are healthy enough for vigorous activity, some workouts can be shorter and harder to burn more calories in less time while other workouts can be longer but easier.

If you're new to exercise, start by doing beginner workouts that vary in duration. Once your fitness level has increased, aim to increase the duration and/or intensity of your workouts. Mix things up regularly to keep from getting bored.

A Word From Verywell

If trying to reach your exercise goal sounds overwhelming, don't worry. Your workout plan doesn't have to be perfect to be effective. And setting up a workout plan is easier than it sounds.

These weight loss exercise recommendations can provide a framework for finding out how much exercise you need per week or day to lose weight. Just remember that consistency matters most. If you can do less more often, that might be a smarter approach.

If you’re not sure where to begin, use a basic weekly workout plan to make sure that the time you spend working out is time that really helps you lose weight.

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6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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