How Much Physical Activity is really needed for Weight Loss?

By Holly Glaubitz, health educator

By now most of us understand that we need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity to reap the benefits of health and reduce the risks associated with chronic disease. But just how much physical activity do you need for weight loss?

The answer depends on the individual. The greatest chance for weight loss comes when you reduce the number of calories you eat and drink AND increase the number of calories you burn through physical activity. The greatest chance for maintenance after weight loss comes with maintaining a physically active lifestyle. Here are some general activity guidelines to follow when trying to maintain or lose weight:

To maintain weight:

Work up to getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity — preferably a mix of the two.

To lose weight and keep it off:

Again, the best approach is to make healthier eating choices and eat fewer calories along with adding more activity into your lifestyle. For some people, a combination of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity and 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity along with modifying what and how they eat will result in weight loss. For people who do not change their eating habits, they may need to increase their activity minutes. People who already have an active lifestyle may need to add more vigorous-intensity activity minutes into their routine.

What is moderate-intensity activity?

A good rule of thumb is that if your breathing and heart rate are noticeably faster while doing an activity, but you can still carry on a conversation, it’s probably moderate intensity. Activities like gardening, mowing, shoveling snow, biking or walking at a casual pace are examples of moderate-intensity activity.

What is vigorous-intensity activity?

If your heart rate increases substantially and it’s difficult to maintain a conversation while you are doing an activity, it’s probably vigorous intensity. Activities like running, jumping rope, swimming laps or using the elliptical machine are examples of vigorous-intensity activity.