Being active is an important part of any weight-loss or weight-maintenance program. When you're active, your body uses more energy (calories). And when you burn more calories than you consume, you lose weight.
Because 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound. So if you cut 500 calories from your diet each day, you'd lose about 1 pound a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories). There are other factors that can influence this equation. Because of changes that occur in the body over time, calories may need to be decreased further to continue weight loss.
Diet or exercise: Does one matter more?
Both are important. However, while diet has a stronger effect on weight loss than physical activity does, physical activity, including exercise, has a stronger effect in preventing weight regain after weight loss.
For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines:
- Aerobic activity. Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. However, to effectively lose or maintain weight, some people may need up to 300 minutes a week of moderate physical activity. You can do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week, and sessions of activity should be at least 10 minutes long.
- Strength training. Do strength training exercises at least twice a week. No specific amount of time for each strength training session is included in the guidelines.
Moderate aerobic exercise includes such activities as brisk walking, swimming and mowing the lawn. Vigorous aerobic exercise includes such activities as running and aerobic dancing. Strength training can include use of weight machines, or activities such as carrying groceries or heavy gardening.
As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of overall physical activity every day.
Nov. 15, 2014
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- 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/PAGUIDELINES/guidelines/default.aspx. Accessed Sept. 24, 2014.
- Ainsworth BE, et al. 2011 compendium of physical activities: A second update of codes and MET values. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2011;43:1575.
- Losing weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/HEALTHYWEIGHT/LOSING_WEIGHT/INDEX.HTML. Accessed Sept. 24 2014.
- Physical activity for a healthy weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/index.html?s_cid=govD_dnpao_006. Accessed Sept. 24, 2014.
- Hensrud DD (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 5, 2014.