how much exercise do I need to do to lose weight?

  • How much exercise do you get each day?
  • All your active choices add up
  • Studies show some exercise is nearly as effective as the perfect amount

It wasn’t too long ago that we had to roll down the car window. Pull up the garage door. Give a door a good push. Or gently lower the toilet lid. (See the toilet-lid alternative on my Instagram @the10principles)

how much exercise do I need to do to lose weight? - four images

These physical acts might seem small, but they actually make a big difference.

Let’s talk exercise! How much exercise do you need to lose weight?

How much exercise is too much?

For the 10 years I was overweight I over-exercised.

No matter what else was going on, I’d feel anxious until I did my one hour workout. Even during the infamous 1998 ice storm that swept across Ontario, in Canada, I (foolishly) went to great lengths to exercise each day. I wrote a short story about that experience for my university’s alumni magazine.

Despite all this exercise I remained overweight.


More exercise doesn’t mean extra calories burned. When you over-exercise your body adapts. And doing extra exercise as a means to purge actually makes it harder to lose weight. Purging via exercise confuses your body and slows down your metabolism.

How much exercise isn’t enough?

These days everything’s automated. We can get from our couches to our cubicles, and back again, with only a few steps.

..physical activity is a 'best buy' for public health.— The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines, USAHeck, even watching tv used to be more active. Once upon a time you had to get up to change the channel!

Automobiles, elevators, motion-sensors, remote controls and countless other inventions make everything easy… except for exercise; one of the best things you can do for your body and mind.

how much exercise - daily activity is one of the best things you can do for your health

Why is physical activity important?

When you open a window, garage or door, you’re strengthening your muscles and getting your heart pumping. This activity fires up your metabolism and boosts your energy and mood. But the positive domino effect doesn’t stop there. Muscle tones your body and burns calories, even when you’re resting.

A little movement does incredible things for your body.

In short, just being moderately active helps you:

  • sleep better, feel better and function better
  • reduce the risk of many diseases
  • lose weight

how much exercise - the healthiest choice always helps you lose weight

How much exercise is juuuuuuuuuuuust right?

For the last 20 years I’ve taken a more moderate approach to exercise. For the last 20 years I’ve been a healthy weight. Coincidence? I think not!

How much exercise helped me lose weight?

Rather than working out for one hour each day, I reduced my weekly exercise routine to 25 minutes, 3 times a week. That’s a big difference! That’s 345 minutes less — or 5 hours and 45 minutes less — that I exercise each week. Multiply that by 18 years! But it’s important to note:

I’m active each day.

In other words, I don’t get from A to B by pushing buttons.

Having an active lifestyle is key to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, being healthy and feeling great.

how much exercise - move your body each day

How much exercise makes a difference?

While you can’t avoid waving for water in a public loo, you can make some tiny choices each day that make a tremendous difference.

In fact, there are huge benefits even if you only move your body a little.

The Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee’s 2018 Scientific Report
As you can see, some physical activity is a major improvement over doing no activity and, nearly as effective as meeting the physical activity guidelines.

The take-away message is don’t wait for the perfect day to do the perfect amount of exercise. Start with a small, active choice today. Just getting started will make a big difference and help you build momentum.

How much exercise do you do each day?

If you already exercise a lot…

Try cutting back.

Start slow. You could drop one workout a week on a designated day. Like maybe your Sunday’s are hectic with family events. Make Sunday’s a rest day! Or perhaps you have an art course on Tuesdays. Make Tuesday a rest day.

If taking a day off feels like too big a leap, trying shaving 5 minutes off one of your workouts.

Nothing will be different unless you try something different!

Don’t overthink it! Us humans are good at rationalizing ourselves out of anything! Understanding the information in this post will help you cut back on exercise. And if a small voice in the back of your mind keeps prodding you to exercise… IGNORE her! She’s not your friend. That’s the voice of a well-worn unhealthy habit urging you to do what you always do. It only feels right because it’s been part of your daily routine for so long.

Re-read this blog post. Understand the facts. Make a decision to slowly cut back and then get busy with the rest of the day.

The first day is the hardest. YOU. CAN. DO IT!

If you’re worried about cutting back, build in accountability:
1. Share your plans with a friend
2. Plan a time to check-in
3. Report back on your progress & pick your next check-in date!

I thought there was an exactness to eating and exercise

Over the years I struggled to lose weight I was hung up on eating the perfect amount and exercising the perfect amount. Now I know healthy living isn’t so exact. Flexibility is a big part of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. For instance, if you eat white bread for lunch you haven’t ruined everything! Or if you can only exercise for 10 minutes today instead of 25, you won’t suddenly have trouble getting into your favourite jeans. Getting and staying healthy is about doing things you can keep up long term and adding flexibility–which means allowing yourself to go with the flow (eating what everyone else is eating) and cutting corners (skipping a workout) once in a while. Don’t get lost in the details like I did for 10 years!

How much exercise equates to an active lifestyle?

All physical activity counts. The little things that people do every day [like climbing a flight of stairs] can and do add up.
– Dr. William Kraus, professor at Duke University

In other words, Dr. Kraus is saying you don’t have to dedicate a set time each day to be active. All the physical choices you make over the course of the day accumulate. Together they create an active lifestyle.

What does an active lifestyle look like?

The easiest way to get your heart pumping is to incorporate physical activity in what you’re already doing.

how much exercise - Add movement to what you are already doing

Here’s 3 ideas:

1. Choose to move
When you have the option to open a door or walk up or down stairs, take it!

2. Alight one stop early
When you’re on an elevator, bus or other mode of transportation and can get off one floor or stop early, do it!

3. Build in a daily 15 minute get-away-from-your-desk date
For many people lunch offers a bit of time for yourself. Breakfast and dinner are often with family or friends and you’re either trying to get out the door to start the day or relax and wind down at the end. Thus, your mid-day meal is an ideal time to move your body. Everybody is entitled to at least 15 minutes to get up and stretch.

how much exercise - back in 15 minutes

Turn this goal into a reality by:

  • making your 15 minutes of movement a non-negotiable; no one would stop you from going to the washroom and daily activity is just as urgent and important
  • setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to start your break
  • inviting a friend to join you to build in accountability

Be creative. Take the stairs to the top floor of your office building. Walk to a nearby park for lunch. Run errands on foot. The options are endless. Get outside if you can.

Being active will improve your physical and mental well-being, which will increase your productivity for the rest of the day. No one can argue with that win-win result.
make today count - the10principles

Make Today Count

The modern world has made us immobile. But we can still be active! Simply adjust what you’re already doing. Start today.

Build healthy eating and exercise habits. A healthy weight will follow.

how much exercise do I need to do to lose weight? - summary

Next Steps:

Now you know why it’s important to be active each day. But how do you get from A: how much exercise you get now, to B: making daily movement a habit? Sign up for my newsletter (below) and you’ll receive one of the best strategies I learned.

Getting your body moving each day helps you lose weight and makes you feel sooooo good!

“Stretch your body out under the sun and you take a deep breath. Your finger tips touch the cool green grass and it says happiness…”



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How much exercise do you get each day? What’s one thing you can make more active today?