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Exercise to Lose Weight

What kind of exercise -- and how much -- is best when you're trying to lose weight?

Exercise Is Just One Piece of the Puzzle

Keep in mind that exercise is just one portion of a successful weight loss program, say experts.

"Eating and exercise are not separate issues," says Church. "They're intimately connected. Too many people think these large doses of exercise are an excuse to eat whatever you want."

Unfortunately, today food is everywhere. There are candy bars at Home Depot and cheesecakes at Barnes & Noble. Gaesser says his kids can't believe a gas station used to be just a place to get gas. And portions are out of control, says Church -- just look at the size of the plates at restaurants.

"It's so much easier not to eat calories than to burn them off," says Quist.

And keep in mind that the definition of successful weight loss is keeping the weight off.

"It's not hard to lose weight," says Church. "Anyone can lose weight. What's hard is keeping it off. Those that combine both diet and exercise keep it off."

But what about metabolism? Many people who have struggled to lose weight believe they have unusually slow metabolisms.

Chances are, "you don't have a slow metabolism," says Church. "It is so rare that of all the metabolisms we've checked (and he does this daily), I can't remember one being legitimately slow."

The truth is, he says, "bigger people have a higher metabolism because they're bigger. Metabolism is how much mass you have. The more mass you have, the more energy you burn just sitting around."

How Much Do I Need to Exercise for Weight Loss?

Do the math: You need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound. So if you're burning 300 calories in one workout, it will take you nearly 12 workouts to lose one pound. If you cut your calorie intake by 300 calories in addition to burning 300, it will take you half as long to lose a pound.

If you want to lose weight, shoot for at least 200 minutes (more than three hours) a week of moderate intensity exercise with everything else consistent, says Church. If you cut calories and exercise, he says, you can get away with a minimum dose of 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) a week.

If you're a beginner, says Gaesser, start with 50 minutes of exercise a week and work up to 200.

"You didn't put on that 20 pounds in the last six months; you're not going to take it off in six months," says Church.

"People don't want to hear about the patience aspect," he says. "They want instant gratification. But the cold, hard reality is if you want to lose weight and keep it off, it's work. No one loses weight and keeps it off without trying."

Here are eight tips to help you adhere to a weight loss workout and meet your goals.

  1. Have an exercise buddy or partner. This is a must, according to the experts who spoke with WebMD. Having accountability to someone else, even if it's your Labrador, keeps you honest. "It's much easier to say no to yourself than to someone else," says Gaesser, who goes for bike rides regularly with friends.
  2. Schedule your workouts. Keep a calendar that lists specific times for your workouts, says Gaesser. Make an appointment with exercise ahead of time, and you won't have the excuse of running out of time.
  3. Weigh yourself daily. This is one of the best tools to see if you're slipping up, Church says. Weighing yourself daily can keep you on track so that you don't let 300 extra calories a day or one missed workout set you back.
  4. Don't do too much, too fast. Don't get over-motivated, warns Quist. Lifting weights that are too heavy or starting out with six days a week of aerobic exercise is a mistake, says Quist. "People end up hurting themselves in the first week and then they give up," he says.
  5. Log your steps. Logging the time that you work out will help you achieve your weekly goal, even if you get off track one day, Church says. It will also inspire you at the end of the week, when you can look back and see what you've accomplished.
  6. Cook more often. Portions, and calories, are out of control when you eat out, says Church. You'll almost always consume fewer calories in a meal cooked and eaten at home. Save restaurants for special occasions, and get together with friends for a walk instead of a meal.
  7. Don't turn water into wine. Not only does a glass of wine or beer add a couple hundred extra calories, after a few glasses, you're not as conscious of consuming more calories in your meal. You don't have to give up drinking, says Church, but do cut back.
  8. Beware the one-way valve. You walk past the hors d'oeuvres at a party, grab some cheese and crackers, and quickly consume 300 calories before dinner even starts. "We have no problem randomly over-consuming extreme amounts of calories," says Church, "but we never randomly, sporadically have extreme bouts of caloric expenditure."
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Reviewed on December 04, 2008

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