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Best Exercise Strategy to Lose Weight

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
3
February 11, 2022

When we lose weight, we often think that we are losing fat. But that’s a common myth - usually, when we are dieting to lose weight, we often lose muscle and water along with fat. This can show great initial results, but usually will lead to weight regain, affecting your mood and motivation. When trying to lose weight (and keep it off), it is crucial to incorporate not just aerobic or cardiac exercise, but also strengthening exercises as well.  

The newest guidelines on exercise released from the WHO in November 2020 encourage exercise and weight loss to support improvement of nearly every chronic condition.

To Maintain Your Health This Translates To:
Aerobic Exercise
(cycling, rowing, swimming, walking, jogging, running)
150-300 minutes per week of moderate intensity
OR 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity per week
50+ minutes per day, 3 days per week, OR
30+ minutes per day, 5 days per week
Strengthening Exercise
(weight lifting, barre, resistance training)
2-3 days per week, or more 30 minutes Monday, Wednesday, Friday of full-body weights, OR
30 minutes daily, alternating muscle groups every other day

How Much Exercise is Ok for Age and Special Health Conditions?

The guidelines on exercise offer specific guidance based on age and medical condition. While the old recommendations suggested restricting exercise in those with chronic conditions, the new recommendations avoid giving people with chronic conditions a pass on exercise.

Adults and older adults: 2.5-5 hours per week
Kids: 1 hour per day
Young children: 3 hours per day
Pregnant women: 2 hours and 30 minutes per week as able
Adults with chronic conditions or disabilities: 2.5 to 5 hours per week (and as able and recommended by physician)

The HHS has some great resources to help with physical activity. Take a picture of this great little reminder!

To Lose Weight, What Should I do?

Note that if you are just starting a workout routine and you haven’t exercised regularly before, any amount of exercise will be helpful. You may even find yourself losing weight by just doing 5 minutes per day!

  1. Start with what you are comfortable with.
  2. Each week, increase the daily exercise amount by 5 minutes, or however much you can tolerate and is recommended by your doctor (ie. Last week, my goal was to do 7 minutes per day of walking, so this week my goal will be 12 minutes per day.)
  3. After you get to the initial benchmark of 150 aerobic minutes per week, stay there for 4 weeks, and see how you like it.
  4. Adjust the # of workouts per week, depending on your schedule and how much time you typically have.
  5. Think about switching the types of exercise to keep things interesting, fun, and challenging.
  6. As you see your rate of weight loss slowing down (hitting a plateau), consider increasing your daily exercise goal, or fine-tuning your diet with a Dietitian.

Depending on what your goals are, and where you are in your weight change journey, start with the exercise level that’s do-able for you. Not sure what is do-able for you? Talk with your Dietitian or Health Coach to help you figure out where to start.

Want an Easy Starter Workout Routine?

We’ve got you covered with a sample workout routine to get you started. Copy this one, or make your own! Be sure to

  • Plan out all 7 days of the week
  • Keep a space for rest days(preferably on those days when you are most busy and just can’t exercise)
  • Figure out all three types of recommended exercise: aerobic, strength, and stretching
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thu Fri Sat
Aerobic 30 min fast walk 45 min water aerobics class 45 min water aerobics class 30 min walk with friends
Strength 15 min resistance bands 15 min tai chi 15 min:  leg raises, calf raises, lateral arm raises, arm curls
Stretch 20 min yoga 20 min yoga 20 min yoga

Takeaways

While you should be doing 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity, another 3 days per week of strengthening, and 3 days per week of stretching (especially for elderly), how you get these done is up to you.

You need a combination of healthy eating and exercise to improve your health. It also shows that while losing weight can be hard, maintaining those good habits and keeping the weight off in the long term are even harder. Be sure that when you start your workout routine, you start small, with something that is achievable with your schedule and lifestyle. If not, you may end op stopping. Also make sure that your eating habits are consistent- without that magical combination of eating healthy AND exercise, you likely won’t see lasting results.