I get a very surprised look from my clients when I tell them how much exercise they need to be doing to lose weight. If you’re not doing much, then my recommendation may be a little hard to take. It may even seem impossible..that is, if you’re accustomed to sitting down for most of the day.
To cut the suspense, here are the numbers:
- At least 60 minutes of intentional physical activity EVERY day.
- 4 of those days with physical activity that makes you break a sweat and gets your heart rate up (jogging, brisk walking, aerobics class)
- The remaining days with lighter intensity physical activity that elevates your heart rate, but you may not be sweating (yoga, walking, leisurely bike ride)
You already know the old and outdated recommendation was 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. Well, that’s a little vague. The general population recommendation has to include something to get you moving, but maybe not too much – they don’t want to scare anyone from the amount of work that needs to be done.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150-250 minutes a week of physical activity that is moderate to vigorous (1). That’s more like it. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans agrees. They think most Americans should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week with 2 of those days being muscle strengthening exercises (2). Let’s remember this is the recommendation to just remain healthy. Not for weight loss.
Here’s the math. It takes 3500 calories to gain a pound. Guess what? It takes burning 3500 calories to lose a pound. It’s pretty easy to put on a pound of weight over Thanksgiving weekend, but try taking it off in the same amount of time. Not.going.to.happen…unless, you work hard.
Why did I highlight intentional? It’s because the exercise has to be purposeful. Getting 10K steps in on your Fitbit walking around the mall shopping doesn’t count. Intentional exercise.
Remember that you can’t outrun a bad diet, so diet and exercise need to be in check in order to lose weight. It can be done and it does work if you believe in the power of exercise.
If you need help, ask a friend to be your accountability partner or look up a local registered dietitian in your area to help with diet. Schedule a session with a personal trainer to get you more comfortable in the gym. You can do this!
*Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program. This post is not meant to be a substitution for medical advice from a physician.