How Much Should I Exercise?

To reap the health benefits of exercise (improvements in cardio and respiratory health and lowered risk of disease), the CDC recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity (or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity) cardio-aerobic exercise each week, plus two days of strength training.

If you’re wondering how much exercise you really need, the CDC’s recommendations are the place to start.

One hundred and fifty minutes of exercise provide the heart- protecting benefits that ward off a lot of chronic conditions and diseases.

Translation: 150 minutes of cardio, plus strength training, keeps you healthy.

But sometimes exercise is about more than staying fit and healthy. It’s about getting fit and healthy.

How much should I exercise if I want to lose weight?

woman running

If you want to lose weight, the recommended exercise minimums for health may be insufficient.

A 200-lb. woman walking at a brisk pace of 3.5 mph burns around 6 cal./min., which is pretty good burn for weight loss.

But you also have to factor in that the same woman burns 1.25 cal./min. while sitting still.

That means, for every minute of brisk walking, the extra calorie expenditure of a 200-lb. woman is 4.75 cal./min.

At the minimum recommended amount of exercise for heart health (150 minutes of cardio), this fast walker burns around 712 calories per week from exercise (plus  extra calories from strength training, which is also a good calorie-burner).

It takes 3,500 calories to lose a pound.

At this rate of burn, it would take the woman in our example just under five weeks to lose one pound.

Which is fine and a perfectly acceptable path to weight-loss.

But, for many people, such slow results may prove discouraging.

That’s why, for weight loss and to prevent weight gain, experts recommend double the amount of exercise they recommend for the health benefits alone – a minimum of 300 minutes of exercise per week.

woman cycling beach

How much exercise per day to lose weight?

As mentioned above, you can lose weight by doing the bare minimum amount of exercise for heart health at 150 minutes of moderate exercise (cardio) per week.

But, if you want to lose weight at a considerably faster pace, you’re going to need a little more.

An hour (60 minutes) of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days per week is a good place to start a weight-loss routine.

Just keep in mind, it’s not about the exercise alone.

Making healthy, permanent changes to your diet can go a long way toward helping with your weight loss goals and prevent you from gaining weight back once you reach your target weight.

The key to losing weight is always to burn more calories than you consume.

And the key to keeping your weight steady is to burn and consume an equal amount of calories.

How much exercise per day?

You should do around 22 minutes of exercise per day at moderate intensity.

If you want to follow the CDC minimum guidelines, and break it up evenly over every day of the week, 150 minutes of moderate exercise is only 22 MINUTES OF EXERCISE PER DAY.

Don’t even have 22 minutes?

That’s okay too.

If you have the ability to exercise at higher-intensity, you can reap the health benefits in half that time.

Barely over 10 minutes of high-intensity exercise a day gets you all of those stellar health benefits.

Still trying to find the time in your schedule?

woman looking at smartwatch fitness tracker

Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be a structured thing.

Every bit of heart-pumping movement you get throughout the day is good for you.

Every bit of moderate activity counts.

That moderate activity may be walking from your car into your office (even better if you start parking a little further away), taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or playing with your kids.

Exercising is the act of getting your body moving and your heart rate up.

It doesn’t have to be a trip to the gym or a specified time on a treadmill.

How many calories should I burn a day exercising?

Unless you are looking to lose weight, how many calories you burn a day exercising doesn’t really matter as long as you get the proper amount of exercise each week (at a proper pace) and burn enough calories to counteract the calories you consume.

If you want to lose weight, burning around 500 cal./day more than you consume is a good number.

At this rate, you will lose around one pound per week.

While it is possible to burn this 500 cal./day through exercise alone, it takes a considerable amount of exercise.

For the 200-lb. woman in our above example, it would take an hour and forty-five minutes of moderate activity per day to reach this extra calorie-burn. (She would burn around 75 cal./hr. anyway just sitting still.)

That’s why most people who want to lose weight choose to burn some calories through exercise and to cut some calories from their diets.

For most people, it’s easier (and less time-consuming) to make healthier food choices than to find two hours a day to workout.

using the sofa for side plank exercise

How many calories should I burn working out?

But the question remains, what is a good calorie-burn for a workout?

For people trying to lose weight, around 400-500 calories is a good calorie total for a workout.

To accomplish this burn in an hour, you need to burn around 7 cal./min., which for many people requires higher intensity, faster-paced exercises like aerobics and running, as opposed to just a brisk walk. (Or you can add elevation to your brisk walk, which also ups your calorie-burn.)

But, if you weigh around 200 pounds, an hour of brisk walking alone gets you very close to this calorie-expenditure.

running shoes closeup

The 200-lb. woman in our above example would burn about 360 calories in her hour-long walk, and about 285 of those would be extra calories burned.

If these 285 calories represented our example woman’s entire calorie-deficit for the day (the number of calories burned in excess of the number of calories consumed), she would still lose a pound in just over 12 days.

While a pound in 12 days may not sound all that fast, at that rate of weight-loss a person can lose nearly 30 pounds in a single year.

Exercise Minutes a Day for Adults

People exercise for all sorts of reasons, but when it comes down to it, exercise recommendations are geared toward health and fitness.

So, if you are exercising for your health, aim for the CDC’s recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) each week (plus your strength sessions).

You can accomplish this in 22 min./day, in 30 minutes five times a week, in short 5-minute bursts throughout the day, or in two 75-minute power sessions. (Though, daily exercise is better.)

If you need to lose weight, try doubling it.

But don’t stress too much about the total time you put into your workouts.

If there is one absolute with exercise, it’s that some exercise is better than none.

So, the correct answer as to how much you should exercise is – as much as you can.

Assuming you’re not over doing it, which is a whole other article.

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