How much exercise do I need to lose weight?

Are you new to exercise? If yes, you are likely going to make two mistakes that can sabotage your weight loss efforts.

The first mistake is pushing yourself too hard or doing complicated exercises that your body may not be able to handle. In the end, you may end up overeating to make up for the calories you burnt.

The second mistake is not exercising enough or doing low-intensity exercise that can help you burn little calories. In the end, you may become frustrated and stop workout because you aren’t losing weight.

To avoid both mistakes, you have to be balanced and have a clear picture of how much workout you need to do to achieve your fitness goals.

If you are new to fitness and don’t know how much exercise you need to do to lose those extra pounds, read on.

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How hard should I workout to achieve my weight loss goals?

See, you don’t have to be a gym rat or spend an enormous chunk of your time working out to achieve your fitness goals. In fact, a study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defends this.

The researchers who conducted the study found out that a person has to spend between 150 to 250 minutes doing moderate aerobic exercise weekly to lose weight (1).

So, if you are just starting out, aim to exercise for 40 minutes, 5 times a week. At the end of the week, you would have spent 200 minutes exercising.

As pointed out by the above study, you don’t have to do super intense exercises to burn those extra pounds. Low-intensity cardio or aerobics may be enough to help you shed a few pounds.

After a week or two, increase the intensity of your workout so that your body can burn more calories.

Increasing the intensity of your work doesn’t mean biting more than you can chew or pushing yourself to the edge and beyond.

The following examples will give you a clear picture of how to increase the intensity of your workout.

  • Calisthenics– If you did 20 pushups daily last week, try to do 25 to 30 pushups this week.
  • Running – If you ran for 1 mile last week, aim to run for 1.5 miles this week.

Several studies have shown that people who overexert themselves or exercise too much may experience the following issues (2) (3) (4).

  • Weaken immune system.
  • Depression.
  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Hormonal imbalance.
  • Increased risk of infection.

Best exercises for weight loss

Do you want to achieve your weight loss goals quicker? If yes, you have to handpick the exercises you do. Granted, all exercises are great and can improve your health, but not all of them may be able to help you achieve your dream body.

For example, you want to bulk up or gain a few pounds, and you spend most of your time doing cardio exercises, you may never achieve your fitness goals.

If your goal is to lose weight, then you should try out any of the exercises listed below, as they can promote rapid weight loss.

Weight training

According to a study conducted by Harvard Health, a person weighing 155 pounds can burn up to 112 calories after a 30 minutes weight training session (5).

Besides helping you lose weight, weight training can help you build muscles and make you stronger. Even more, it can increase your resting metabolic rate or the number of calories your body can burn when you aren’t working out (6).

Several studies have shown that our bodies will continue to burn calories hours after a weight training exercise session (7) (8) (9).

People with slow metabolism may also benefit from doing weight training. One 6 months study shows that spending 11 minutes doing strength training exercise 3 times a week can increase metabolism by 7.4% (9).

As you likely know, weight training isn’t for everyone. That said, doing it for a few minutes each time you work out may help you achieve your fitness goals quicker.


Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to go to the gym to lose weight.

Presently, there are a handful of effective exercises that can be done outdoors or at the comfort of your home. Jogging is one of them.

But just how effective is jogging?

According to a study conducted by Harvard Health, a person weighing 155 pounds can burn up to 300 calories after jogging for 30 minutes (5 mph pace). You can burn up to 372 calories if you run at a 3.7 mi/h pace for 30 minutes (10).

Several studies have found that running can help you burn a dangerous type of fat known as visceral fat or belly fat. This type of fat is linked to a lot of chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, just to mention a few (11) (12) (13).

As previously mentioned, the great thing about jogging is that it can be done anywhere and doesn’t require any special equipment.

To get started, try jogging for 30 minutes, 3 times weekly.

If running on hard surfaces affects your joints, then you should explore softer surfaces like grass.


Pilates is an excellent exercise for beginners looking to lose weight without overexerting themselves.

A study sponsored by the ACE (American Council on Exercise) found that a person weighing about 140 pounds can burn up to 108 calories after doing a beginner level Pilates for 30 minutes. One may be able to burn 168 calories after an advanced Pilates workout session for the same duration (14).

When it comes to fat burn, Pilates isn’t as effective as running and other aerobic exercises. Despite this, more people are doing it, as it is fun, enjoyable, and easy to follow (15).

As can be seen in this study, Pilates is also an excellent exercise for women looking to reduce their tummy size and hip circumference. To enjoy these benefits, you may have to perform Pilates exercises for 90 minutes twice or thrice weekly.

Besides helping you lose those extra pounds, Pilates can help reduce lower back pain and increase your endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility (16) (17) (18).

Combining Pilates with a healthy diet and other exercises like cardio and weight training may speed things up and help you achieve your fitness goals quicker.

Factors that can determine how much weight you lose

The amount of weight you can lose from exercising is linked to some factors. Below are a few of them


Young people tend to carry more muscles and less fat. Because of this, their RMR (resting metabolic rate) is higher, as they can burn more calories. Older people, on the other hand, usually have a lower RMR, as they have more fat mass than muscles (19)(20).  


Men tend to have a lower fat to muscle ratio than women. Because of this, they have a faster metabolism and can lose weight quicker than women. Unlike men, women don’t have a high amount of testosterone, a hormone that is associated with muscle growth and weight loss (21).


Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can slow down weight loss, reduce metabolism, and increase cravings for unhealthy foods (22) (23).


Genetics can make some people prone to weight gain (24).

Starting weight

People who are overweight or obese tend to shed more pounds than people of normal weight, especially when they are just starting out (25).

As they lose more pounds, they will begin to lose weight at a pace similar to those of regular people.

Don’t despair if you find out that any of the above factors are sabotaging your weight loss efforts. See, if you do the right exercises consistently and follow a good diet, nothing will be able to stop you.

That said, regardless of how hard you exercise, you will not be able to achieve your weight loss goals overnight, so try to be patient and trust the process.

The problem of losing weight too quickly

Avoid diets and exercise programs that promise to help people lose more than 4 pounds weekly.

Studies have shown that losing weight too quickly may affect our body negatively and result in the following conditions (26) (27).

  • Malnutrition.
  • Hair loss.
  • Gallstones.
  • Constipation.
  • Irregular periods.
  • Headaches.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dehydration.

What’s more, people who lose weight too quickly are likely going to regain it after a while (28).

The bottom line on how much exercise you need to lose weight

Truth be told, building your dream body isn’t going to happen in one day. There are going to be days when you won’t feel like exercising and want to quit.

On those days, remember that consistency is the key to weight loss success.

Always try to make your workout as fun as possible. You can keep things interesting by trying different exercises and working out with other people.

If you are new to working out and don’t know where to start, you should seek the help of a fitness trainer.

Regardless of the nature of the exercise you plan on doing, you must consult your doctor before starting.

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