An effective weight loss plan needs to include exercise. Learn how intense — and how long — workouts to lose weight need to be to help you drop pounds.
Over 70 percent of Americans are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so finding effective weight loss strategies is a common goal for many of us. Whether you’ve been told by your doctor you need to drop some pounds for your health’s sake, or if you simply want to look better in your clothes, the good news is you can successfully lose weight with lifestyle changes — including committing to regular workouts.
The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) points out eating fewer calories is important but being physically active is crucial for achieving and maintaining weight loss.
To successfully use specific workouts to lose weight, you need to understand how much exercise, and at what intensity, is necessary.
Working out for weight loss
If you are new to exercise — especially, if you have any health problems — talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe to begin an exercise program. Even if you’re a couch potato who has been sedentary for a long time, with your doctor’s OK you can work up to a moderately intense workout to lose weight over time. And, if you are already exercising, cutting back on calories while increasing the time of your workouts or moving into more intense workout routines can help you drop pounds faster.
However, it’s easy to overestimate the number of calories you are burning, and that can cause discouragement. Remember that regular exercise isn’t enough to get and keep weight under control if you continue to overeat, especially high calorie foods. And how well a specific workout burns calories depends on how long, and how hard, you work out.
In general, if you need to maintain your current weight, 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, is usually adequate. But if you are interested in workouts to lose weight — especially if you want to lose more than five percent of your current weight — you’ll likely need to be physically active for at least 300 minutes of moderate-to-higher intensity activity each week, according to the NHLBI.
Moderate and vigorous workouts to lose weight
The CDC defines moderately intense exercise as physical activity that makes your breathing and heart rate noticeably faster, but you can still carry on a conversation while exercising. Examples include walking briskly (covering a mile in about 15 minutes), raking and bagging leaves, and pushing a lawn mower for about the same amount of time, and biking at a casual pace.
A vigorous, high-intensity workout can be any exercise where your heart rate is increased substantially, and you are breathing too hard and fast to have a conversation. Types of high-intensity workouts include jogging, swimming laps, vigorous dance classes, rollerblading, skiing, most competitive sports (like basketball and soccer), and jumping rope.
Another way of monitoring physical activity intensity is to determine whether your heart rate is within the target zone during physical activity. The formula to find your maximum heart rate is simple: Subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 50 years old, your estimated maximum age-related heart rate is 170 beats per minute (bpm). Your target heart rate moderately intense exercise should be 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, the CDC explains. For vigorous, intense exercise, your target heart rate should be 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
To see if you are exercising within the heart rate target zone, stop exercising and take your pulse at your neck, wrist, or chest. Count a full 60 seconds of heartbeats or take your pulse for 30 seconds and multiply by two.
How many calories does your workout burn?
There’s no magic exercise routine to lose weight. The key is to burn more calories than you take in by eating a healthy diet, eliminating excess calories, and consistently sticking with the workout you choose — whether you are running or lifting weights at the gym, taking an aerobics class, or walking around your neighborhood at a brisk pace.
In general, you need to burn about 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat. The CDC offers these examples of how many calories most people burn on average during workouts to lose weight.
Moderate intensity workouts (30 to 60 minutes)
Vigorous, high intensity workouts (30 to 60 minutes)
Planning your workouts to lose weight
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) advises finding ways to exercise you enjoy so you’re more likely to stick with your workout plan to lose weight. It’s also crucial to schedule workouts that fit into your work and home responsibilities.
You can meet recommendations for workouts to lose weight by completing 30 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on approximately five days each week. Or you can aim for 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise on three days per week. The ACSM emphasizes you can also achieve your workout goals by breaking up the daily amount of exercise throughout the day, if that works best for you.
April 08, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN