If you want to lose weight and not gain it back, you need to make exercise a regular part of your life. We can hear what you're thinking now: No duh.

If you already know this, that's great. So you didn't need us to tell you that you need to exercise most days of the week—ideally, pretty vigorously, not just phoning it in while reading People on the treadmill.

But here's something most people don't know:  If you want to get rid of extra poundage and you only exercise and you don't change how you eat and what you drink, you almost certainly won't take off the weight you want or keep it off.

Why? Because exercise, on its own, is almost never enough to shed enough calories to take off serious weight. Most of us would have to work out at the intensity and frequency of a professional athlete—people whose job is to exercise—to burn enough calories. That would probably mean two vigorous workouts a day, along with other training. Who has time for that? Plus, working out a lot makes you hungrier, typically, so you're more likely to eat and drink more, or you may "reward" yourself for exercising, so you indulge and add back the calories you just burned, and then some.

But here's the thing: When it comes to slimming down there is something that exercise is really good for and that's keeping the weight off.  You don't want to be part of the 80 percent of people (by one estimate) who go through all the trouble of losing, only to gain it back, right?

In fact, there's a group of people that scientists study specifically because they're among the elite percentage who have lost weight and haven't gained it back. This group has very specific habits they follow day in, day out. And guess what? Ninety percent of them exercise every day, on average, for about 1 hour per day. The members of this group—they're part of the National Weight Control Registry—have lost an average of 66 pounds and have kept it off for 5 1/2 years.  Pretty impressive.

So how much do you need to work out (assuming 1 hour per day isn't realistic for you)? You'll lose some weight if you work out 150 minutes (so 2.5 hours) a week, but the greatest loss is likely to happen if you exercise between 225 minutes (2 hours, 45 minutes) and 420 minutes (7 hours a week, or 1 hour per day).

Remember that doing something is always better than doing nothing. So for the days when you're really hating your workouts, just do what you can.

The six articles in the Weight Loss section are designed to give you some of the most important, useful, scientifically sound, and safe information. We don't try to cover everything about weight loss (or anything else) on ih8exercise.com, but if you follow the advice in these six articles you'll have a great foundation for lasting weight loss.


Weight Loss: Eat & Repeat

Nutrition Swap: Less Weight-Loss Thinking...More "Fuel My Workouts" Thinking

Goal: Run a 5K


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