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How Much Exercise To Lose Weight - Physical Activity Tips

How much exercise you need to do depends on what you want to achieve. Do you want to lose weight, walk to improve your general health, or give your fitness level a bigger boost with more vigorous activities? Whatever your goal, you’ll gain a lot from adding more movement into your life — healthier blood pressure, reduced stress, better sleep and a lower risk of many chronic diseases are just a few of the benefits.

You can read more below for tips on how much exercise you may need to achieve specific health goals.

Goal 1: I want to improve my health and lower my risk of heart disease and diabetes

This is a good move – regular physical activity is ‘good medicine’ against many chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes. The advice from the National Physical Activity Guidelines for adults is:

  • Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. ‘Moderate-intensity’ means activities such as brisk walking where your heart rate is slightly increased. This is as opposed to strolling or window-shopping. As a guide, you should be able to talk comfortably – but not sing. Other activities at this level include digging in the garden, mowing the lawn and dancing, swimming or cycling at a medium pace. You can do your 30 minutes all in one go or break it up into two or three separate 10–15 minute sessions.
  • Find as many ways to be active throughout the day as you can. Even small bursts of activity, like walking up escalators instead of standing on them, increases movement and contributes to better health outcomes. Make it a habit to walk or cycle for short trips instead of taking the car, use the stairs rather than taking the lift, and play active games with your children and grandchildren or pets.

Goal 2: I want to lose weight

Although there are currently no Australian guidelines for physical activity and weight loss, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following:

  • At least 250 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week is required for significant weight loss and to prevent weight creeping back on. You could still lose weight with only 150–250 minutes of physical activity a week, but the weight loss may be only modest.
  • Strength or resistance training exercise (exercising with weights) should be included to help reduce fat and increase muscle.

The National Heart Foundation of Australia suggests that people living with diabetes or people at risk of developing diabetes who have no limitations to exercise should try to build up to 45–60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week in order to lose weight.

If you’re not physically active currently, briskly walking for up to 60 minutes a day might sound daunting. However, you can start off with short periods of walking each day and gradually build up your exercise time as you get fitter.

Goal 3: I want to include some regular vigorous activity to increase my health and fitness

Thirty minutes of brisk walking every day is excellent — it can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, may help you lose weight, and it can make you feel good by increasing your energy and mood. But you don’t have to stop there. Exercising for longer periods or more vigorously will bring even greater health benefits.

‘Vigorous’ exercise is activity that makes you puff enough so that talking in full sentences between breaths is difficult. Activities that count as ‘vigorous’ include:

  • faster team sports such as soccer, netball, basketball and squash
  • jogging, aerobic (‘cardio’) or circuit classes at a gym or fitness centre, fast cycling or fast rowing, cross-country skiing and speed walking.

For best results, a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise three or four days a week is the amount advised by the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines. However, if you’re unused to physical activity, start off slowly with the recommendations above until your fitness level improves and have regular checkups with your doctor to see how you’re going.

Should I check with my doctor before doing more vigorous activities?

Age is no barrier to vigorous exercise. However, check with your doctor first if you’ve been leading an inactive or mostly inactive lifestyle, have heart disease or a family history of heart disease, or have any other major health problems. Vigorous activity also isn’t recommended in pregnancy.

Tips for building more movement into your day

  • Look for everyday opportunities to move more and get fitter — for example, try walking up and down the escalator instead of just standing there.
  • Think of pushing a heavy supermarket trolley as a workout rather than as a chore, and walk a little faster.
  • When you go for a walk, find a route that includes some stairs or hills.
  • Walk for 20 minutes in your lunch hour (and as a bonus you may feel re-charged for the afternoon!).
  • If you have a spare 10 minutes, find something physical to do such as taking a quick walk, cleaning some windows, weeding a few plants, playing with the dog, or doing a few stretches.
  • If you sit for long hours at work, find reasons to move about such as standing when you talk on the phone or getting up and talk to a colleague instead of emailing them from two cubicles away.

Further information

Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing: An active way to better health http://www.health.gov.au

Sources

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Physical activity and public health guidelines. [online] Indianapolis, IN: ACSM. c2007 [accessed 11 Aug 2010]

Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Physical activity guidelines. [online] Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. c2007. [last updated 23 Mar 2009, accessed 11 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines

Donnelly JE, Blair SN, Jakicic JM et al. Appropriate physical activity intervention strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Feb 2009; 41(2): 459–471.

National Heart Foundation of Australia. Physical activity in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes. [online] Australia: National Heart Foundation of Australia. 2009 [accessed 11 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/

Last published: 31 October 2011

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Disclaimer
This information has been developed and reviewed for Bupa by health professionals. To the best of their knowledge it is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.

Bupa Australia Pty Ltd makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. Bupa Australia is not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of or reliance on the information. Except that which cannot be excluded by law. We recommend that you consult your doctor or other qualified health professional if you have questions or concerns about your health. For more details on how we produce our health content, visit the About our health information page.

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