To answer this we first need to ask another “what is your goal?”, or more specifically, “how much weight do you want to lose and by when?”
Once we have the answer to the second question, we can simply calculate how much exercise is needed based on an understanding of how much energy different exercises burn per minute.
Here’s an example of how we do this assuming that our goal is to lose 10 kilos in 20 weeks, or ½ a kilo per week:
The amount of exercise needed to lose ½ kilo of body fat per week
It has been estimated that ½ kilo (1 pound) of body fat equals around 16,000 kilojoules (or around 4,000 calories). So to lose ½ kilogram of body fat each week through exercise, we need to burn off approximately 2,500 kilojoules (600 calories) extra each day. So based on this figure, the answer to how much exercise is easy: that amount of exercise which burns an extra 2,500 kilojoules (kJ) per day, or 16,000kJ per week. You can use the energy chart provided on this website as a guide, to learn about number of calories burned in 15, 30, 45 and 60 min of various cardio exercises.
As peoples lives are so different, weight loss can’t realistically be reduced to a simple equation like it has been above.
Try exercising for 10 minutes today and add 5 minute increments until you work up to 30.
There are other variables to be considered in the amount of exercise for weight loss equation that weren’t adequately catered for in the above example.
For example, none of these factors were taken into consideration:
- Our individual weight loss goals– Because each of us has different goals, the amount of exercise which is right for each of us will be different. About five hours of weekly exercise may bring the biggest weight loss for obese adults who are also watching their intake of fat and calories. Also, The Institute of Medicine released a report in 2003 claiming that a full hour of exercise each day is what it takes to manage our weight; for years
- Our individual levels of motivation – What, and more importantly, how strong our motivation levels are will help to determine how much of the exercise we know we need to do we actually will do.
- Our individual fitness levels – How fit we are today determines to a great extent the amount of exercise we can realistically do and just as importantly, at what level of intensity.
- Our individual energy levels- Like our fitness level, our energy levels will help determine how much exercise we can cope with each day. Ironically, the more we exercise the more energy our bodies will have available to exercise.
- Our time availabilities- If we can and would like to exercise for an hour or two each day but don’t physically have the time available, we might need to get a little smarter (such as including the family in our exercise , exercising before the family wakes up in the morning, during our lunch-break, or after the kids have gone to bed), exercise more efficiently (for example jogginginstead of walking) or reevaluate and set new priorities.
- Our priorities in life- The reality is that nothing is as important as our health and wellbeing, because with these in place we can literally do anything. Tell your family and friends that exercise is a top priority and make them aware of all committed time slots. Ask them not to derail you with conflicting invitations or demands.
- Our preferred exercise program- For the best possible long-term benefit, a program that includes aerobic type exercises (like walking, jogging,bicycling, swimming, martial arts, etc) and strength training exercise (like weight training, isometric exercise, resistance band exercise, circuit training, etc) works best because the aerobic workouts burn the maximum amount of calories during the workout and the strength training increases our resting metabolic rate (or the amount of energy our body burns at rest and during everyday activities).
- Our commitment to exercise progression- Exercise progression is important for weight loss because: As we lose weight, we burn less energy doing the same exercise – because we are physically carrying less weight around. The fitter we become, the more efficient our bodies become and the less energy they use to do the same volume of exercise.
- Our attitude towards exercise- Remember, doing something is better than nothing and it is far easier and more likely that we will progress from doing a little bit of exercise to a little bit more, than it is from doing nothing to doing a whole lot!
- How consistently we exercise- Within the constraints of life’s natural daily, weekly, and monthly cycles, we need to be as consistent as possible for the best long-term affects.
- Our general physical abilities- When it comes to exercise, some of us have physical disabilities that prevent us from doing some forms of activity.
- The law of averages – The law of averages suggests that if we need to average 60 minutes of exercise everyday (for example), we should perhaps do 70 or 80 minutes per day knowing full well that it is unrealistic for any of us to be able to exercise every single day.
- How many kilojoules or calories less we are prepared to eat each week –To understand how much energy your body needs to maintain its current weight, please visit our BMR Calculator.
It’s important to remember that for every one of us, all of these factors are subject to change from day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year.
To be a successful “loser” it comes down to calories: spending more and eating less. It’s a combination of these factors that will result in a significant enough calorie deficit to lead to the kind of success you want.
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