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How much exercise do you need every day to lose weight?

written by Vidya Sury November 18, 2020
How much exercise do you need every day to lose weight

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Ever wondered: how much exercise do you need every day to lose weight?

Weight loss is the holy grail – no – a goal that calls for a disciplined and healthy lifestyle. It involves eating healthy and exercising regularly, among other things in order to achieve that goal. But how much exercise do you need every day to lose weight and reach your weight loss goal?

Read 100 reasons to make exercise a habit

That’s a common question with no right answer.  Each individual is different and there is no magic number of hours or a one-size-fits-all exercise routine to lose weight. Rather, there are several factors and variables to take into consideration to figure out what works for a particular person.

So how much exercise do you need every day for weight loss?

Let’s look at three major variables that must be taken into account when determining how much exercise you need every day to lose weight, to give you a blueprint to decide what works best for you.

3 variables to determine this.

Variable 1: Calories Consumed and Calorie Quality

The basic principle of weight loss is that to lose weight we must achieve a caloric deficit or expend more calories than we are consuming. Thus, in order to know the amount of exercise needed to lose weight, we need to know what our daily caloric intake is, and just as importantly, what the sources are for those calories (for example, vegetables versus potato chips).

So, if you operate on a low-calorie diet generally speaking, you will need less exercise to lose weight and you may be fine with a moderate three to four days a week training plan.

On the other hand, if you tend to eat excessive amounts or use tons of supplements, you’ll need to up your exercise plan and really push to get back into the caloric deficit mode.

Variable 2: Exercise Type and Intensity

The second key variable is the type of exercise, and more specifically the intensity. Twenty minutes on the elliptical has a far different energy output than twenty minutes of all out sprinting. This variable can also dovetail with our first variable, in that the greater the number of calories consumed, the more energy we may have for high intensity exercise, whereas if we aren’t consuming too many calories, we may not need to exercise for an especially long time or at a high intensity per se.

In general, exercise modalities that are more aerobic will require a longer time to see any sort of effective impact on weight loss. Jogging, biking, the elliptical machine or other options would all require a significant amount of time, potentially hours over the course of a week, to see a meaningful impact.

But anaerobic activities such as sprinting, resistance training or interval training methods will be more effective in a short amount of time, yet their intensity level is much higher and thus they have a certain level of pre-requisite fitness to achieve their full potential and results.

Variable 3: What is the Weight Loss Goal? How much time do we have to achieve it?

The third variable is arguably the most important, what is the weight loss goal? Much like our car ride or travel plans are determined by our destination, our exercise plan and weight loss journey will be dictated by the goal we have set.

If the goal is to lose 5 pounds in two months, that is a fairly modest and achievable goal for most people and would not require much additional exercise. If you were a sedentary person prior to your goal you would only need to exercise 20-30 minutes a day for three to four days a week to achieve this goal.

However, if you goal is to lose 30 pounds in two months, the equation is radically different, and it would take an extreme amount of exercise, multiple hours every day at high intensity to achieve that same goal.

How Much Exercise You Need Every Day To Lose Weight_

Putting it All Together: Finding the Right Number

Now that we have examined the variables, we can think about how to more effectively answer the question: how much exercise do you need every day to lose weight. If you have a low caloric intake usually, are planning on utilizing low intensity aerobic exercise, and have a modest goal than you might be ok with 30-45 minutes of aerobic exercise a day.

However, if you love to eat, love to lift weights and also have an ambitious goal for weight loss, you’re going to have to spend hours per day working out to reach those goals.

The ultimate recommendation would be to do the following:

  • accurately assess your starting point as compared to your goal; then,
  • look at how much time you have to reach that goal, and
  • make a plan accordingly to reach it rather than rely on a standard number or cookie-cutter approach that doesn’t apply to every person.

Stay healthy!

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