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How much exercise is needed to keep weight off?


Monitoring your weight is one step toward successful weight management.  Photo:Business Wire. 

Do you exercise 30 minutes on 3 days of the week or 60 minutes every day or 20 minutes on 5 days of the week?  Many people are confused about the recommendations and how the recommendations fit with their goals. 

For individuals trying to lose weight, ACSM recommends a starting goal of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity in a week and progressing to 200-300 minutes per week.  150 minutes breaks down into 30 minutes for 5 days a week which is a good starting duration for those who have been sedentary for a while.  300 minutes breaks down into 60 minutes on 5 days a week.  Once 30-minute exercise sessions have been maintained for 4 weeks, increase the duration to 45 minutes.  After another 4 weeks, increase the sessions to 60 minutes.  To further increase weight loss, sessions might need to increase to as much as 90 minutes. 

For individuals wanting to maintain their current healthy weight, 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise on 5 days of the week or 20-30 minutes of vigorous exercise on 3 days of the week should be sufficient.  Sometimes the duration depends on which kind of activity is chosen and how many calories are consumed in a day.  For example, consuming extra calories in a day would be benefited by an extended exercise session of 60 rather than 30 minutes.

There are four commonly cited weight maintenance strategies used by  individuals who have successfully lost weight and kept if off:

  1. Physical Activity- People who have been successful at keeping weight off are highly active.  They don't simply stop exercising after they lose the weight. 
  2. Diet- Healthy weight individuals eat diets low in calories, sugar, and fat.  Foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are low in calories and high in fiber which makes them filling and healthy.  Eating on a regular schedule is also a good habit to maintain.
  3. Breakfast- Do not skip this meal.  Breakfast starts the day off, and it is hard for the body to really get going when it has no fuel.  If you don't like breakfast, try a nutrient dense drink.
  4. Weight Monitoring- Keep an eye on your weight.  If you notice that you've added five pounds, do something about it before it becomes 10 pounds.  Constantly monitoring body weight can help you catch minor weight gain and divert huge weight gain.

Moderate physical activity should be enough activity to raise the heart rate to 60-80% of its maximum, break a sweat, and cause moderate breathing.  Vigorous activity should cause the heart rate to raise to 80%+ of its maximum with difficult breathing and speaking.


  • David 5 years ago

    This may have been covered in another article, but what is considered "Moderate" and what is considered "Vigorous" activities?

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