Expert Q&A

Exercise for weight loss: How much exercise to lose weight?

I've heard dieting isn't enough to lose weight. You also have to exercise. But how much do I have to exercise in order to lose weight?

It depends. We lose weight if we burn more calories than we take in. Normal maintenance activities like muscle repair and regular physiology and simple walking uses about 15 calories per pound. Someone who does not move around much all day might only needs about 13 calories per pound and someone who moves all day might use 17 or more calories per pound.

Every mile walked or run burns 100 calories more or less. Another way to look at it is every half hour of brisk activity burns about 300 or so calories, depending on how much you weigh now and how vigorous the activity is.

If you increase your activity by 500 calories a day and do not increase your eating, you will lose 3500 calories a week, the equivalent of 1 pound. Alternatively, if you reduce your eating by 250 calories per day and increase your activity by 250 calories, it’s still a net loss of 500 calories per day or 1 pound per week.

To avoid becoming discouraged, start adding activity slowly. Try using the stairs instead of the elevator or park at the far end of the parking lot when shopping. Try going dancing so exercise will be fun. Swimming is good activity when it’s hot. Not only will you lose weight, but you will have more energy.

It isn’t necessary to be an athlete to lose weight. Simple changes can add up to significant pounds lost.

John Messmer, MD
Contributing Expert

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