“How much do I need to exercise to lose weight?"
Well what do you mean by “how much”? How often? How long?
How hard? “Yes, yes and yes?”
Short answer: often and as intensely as you can.
Long answer: all of that depends on your; goal, schedule,
fitness level, calorie intake and any possibly health issues or
According to a review in ‘Medicine & Science in Sports &
Exercise’, physical activity accounts for 15–30% of your total
daily caloric expenditure, but the more resistance work you
do on your muscles, the more after burn you have – that is,
your body burns fat 24 to 48 hours after a resistance
In general, to boost your metabolism to burn more fat (aka
lose weight) you need to work every single muscle in your
body a minimum of twice a week and do cardio at least twice
a week BUT - that’s if you workout HARD AND EFFICIENTLY.
The Physical Activity Guidelines is a good general base.
It’s published by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health
Promotion. To that point, many fitness experts like Jonathan
Valdez say “With the amount of clients I see, it’s
amazing how many people aren’t even doing these
fundamental recommendations,” Valdez is a Registered
Dietitian Nutritionist, ACE-certified personal trainer and
representative for the New York State Academy of Nutrition
and Dietetics. I agree. People are surprised that just walking
the dog doesn’t do it.
Through working with my clients, I find that most adults
need to work their muscles at least twice a week to just
initiate weight loss. I’m talking about resistance exercise
targeting all the major muscle groups. Doing a bunch of reps
with light weights doesn’t count as resistance. That’s semicardio-
semi endurance. Real muscle-working resistance is
whatever resistance truly challenges you to the point of being
hard but doable in good form. I find it’s effective and easier
for people to work into their schedule hitting fewer muscles
in each workout, more times a week. In other words, do
resistance/weight training-workouts 4 to 5 times a week,
hitting only 2 to 3 muscles in each workout, and doing cardio
on the other days, or right after you do resistance (weights).
Always work your muscles before doing cardio- more on that
Cardio: to lose weight, depending on your fitness, you’ll
want to do a minimum of 2½ hours of moderate-intensity
exercise such as power-walking, golf, moderately swimming
laps or getting on an elliptical or a recumbent bike, or 75
minutes (that’s 1 hour & 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity
exercise like jogging, swimming, playing a sport like tennis or
You can also do an equivalent combination of the two
intensities of cardio every week, according to the official
Physical Activity Guidelines.
Can you forego the workout if you just eat less? Well, yes
and no, but more towards the “no.” Dieting is cutting calories
and that alone doesn’t boost your metabolism - which is what
burns fat. That’s not to say you won’t lose weight by just
dieting, but it takes longer, it doesn’t maintain the weight
loss and you’ll need to do a major calorie deficit. What works
best is watching your calories and exercising at the same
You may have heard that you need to cut about 500 calories
a day to lose about a pound a week. You could cut 250
calories from your diet and burn 250 calories through
exercise. You could track your heart rate with an app or
fitness watch to get an estimate of how many calories you
burn while exercising.
A 155-pound person can expect to burn between 130 and
150 calories with 30 minutes of walking at a rate of 3.5 miles
per hour, 220 calories after 30 minutes of swimming and
275-300 calories after running at about 5 mph. This again
depends on your weight and true pace or intensity.
On the flip side, you can lose weight by only exercising and
not dieting, but it’s hard. To do this, you must burn more
calories than you take in. And this normally calls for you to
over-exercise and over-exercising can lead you to
overfatigue your body and even lead to injuries. Again,
what’s worked best for my clients has been a combination of
exercise and modest calorie restriction.
You could feel less hunger or not hungry at all after an
intense workout like HIIT -High-Intensity Interval Training or
a long cardio session. We all have a “hunger hormone” called
Ghrelin, which can dip for about 90 minutes after a super
intense workout. But then again, I have clients who feel
ravished after a mean session! (Mean as in fierce, not that
I’m mean!). I always warn them to make sure they eat but
not to overeat later. That would defeat the purpose of
burning calories or the afterburn. What you eat before and
after a workout depends on if it’s cardio, or weights, or both,
and how you feel. As a certified Personal Trainer I studied
and continue to research nutrition, which I use to help my –
clients in their calorie count.
But back to how much you should workout to lose weight, I
sit with my clients to help them figure out how to fit it in- no
matter how busy or bogged down or overwhelmed they are.
We all have different schedules, motivations and mindsets,
but you CAN MAKE TIME! And together we find how to make
that happen. And you don’t have to spend hours at a time at
the gym. I train clients at their homes, at work in their break
rooms, conference rooms, or private office; at their
condo/apt gyms, in their tiny living rooms, at the park,
baseball field, basketball court, high school track, or just
urban sidewalk, and yes, private personal training studios.
Some clients workout twice a week, others do it 5 to 6 times
a week - I create a program to make their frequency as
efficient as possible.
The main point is that you should get help figuring out and
factoring it in so that you don’t waste our time, and you truly
do, lose weight.
NASM Certified Personal Trainer