How Often Should You Exercise to Lose Weight?
This is a very tough question to answer because individuals vary. There are several factors that one needs to look at before deciding how often they should exercise. In this article, we’ll look at the different factors to take note of and you’ll be able to decide what is right for you.
Before proceeding, it’s important to know that when you’re trying to lose weight, your nutrition is the number one factor to consider. If you were at a caloric deficit and ate clean and all you did was go walking three times a week, you’d still lose weight.
Many people have done it and have been successful in their weight loss journey. Your weight is directly linked to your diet. Exercise is indirectly linked. Understanding this is of paramount importance.
- How Overweight Are You?
If you’re about 10 to 20 pounds overweight, exercising 5 to 6 times a week will not be a problem, because your body can handle it. You’ll see relatively fast progress fitness-wise and your weight will drop if you’re eating right.
However, if you’re morbidly obese, every exercise session will seem arduous. Your joints will hurt. You’ll need to exert more, and every workout will seem torturous. But, you can do it!! Stick with it!
For people in the second group, exercising three to four times a week will suffice. Even if all you do is a 20 to 30-minute walk, that will be enough. Just get started!
Since you’ll be at a caloric deficit, the exercise will boost your metabolism a little and help to burn more calories. Over time, as you lose more weight, you’ll find that the workouts get easier.
You can move better and for longer without getting as tired. You’ll be able to exercise more often without struggling.
- Are You at a Plateau?
It’s very common to lose weight for a while and suddenly notice that no matter what you do, your weight is not coming down. Your diet is on point and you’re training hard, but the pounds are just not melting away.
This is known as a plateau – and it’s perfectly normal. Your body is adjusting to the new weight and doing what it needs to do. Once it has adapted, the weight will start dropping again.
The key points to note here is that you should NEVER cut your calories too drastically. Aiming for a 500 to 600 calorie deficit is more than sufficient. If you cut your calories by too much, you’ll hit a weight loss plateau.
The same applies to your training too. Sometimes, your training regimen may be too harsh. Your body is sore and exhausted. It needs rest. Taking a 3 to 4-day break will allow your body to recover and you may notice that your weight starts dropping again.
There’s no need to worry about gaining weight during the break because you’ll be at a caloric deficit. So, you’ll not be adding on any additional pounds.
- The Time You Have
Last but not least, time is always a factor. The excuse that you don’t have time to exercise could very well be true if you’re a busy mom or you’re working two jobs, etc. Time constraints are a problem that you’ll need to work around.
If all you have is 15 minutes a day, a quick high intensity session will help you. 2 or 3 times a week will be enough to get your body in calorie burning mode. As long as your diet is on point, your weight will come off.
To conclude, if you train to the best of your ability and watch your diet and caloric intake, you will lose weight. Do not compare yourself to others. Your only competition is the person you see in the mirror.
If you stay the course, what seems impossible today will be your warm up one day in the future. Stay committed. Stay strong.
How to Structure a Training Program to Lose Weight
Structuring a weight loss training program is intuitive and as long as you observe the basic principles, you’ll have workouts that help you to lose weight.
Do note that you cannot out-exercise a poor diet. So, the first step will be making sure that you’re at a caloric deficit every day and you should clean up your diet as much as you can.
A good fitness program will have 3 components to it:
It’s best to engage in stretching exercises daily. 15 to 20 minutes of stretching will help to lengthen your muscles and also strengthen them. If you have the opportunity to attend yoga or Pilates classes, do go for them.
Both are good for stretching you out and aligning your body while strengthening your core. While all the flexibility training in the world will make almost no visible difference on your body, being limber will help you to execute your movements better with less risk of injury.
Aim to stretch daily.
- Cardiovascular Training
This is commonly known as cardio and it’s any activity that increases your heart rate for a prolonged period of time. Brisk walking, swimming, rowing, etc. are all very effective forms of cardio.
There are two types of cardio – high intensity and low intensity. Depending on your level of fitness, you’ll need to choose one type and go with it till you can improve.
Your goal should always be to reach a level of fitness where your cardio sessions are high intensity. However, if you’re severely overweight, it may be best to stick to low intensity cardio such as walking.
You’ll be less likely to get injured and it will be easier. As you shed the excess pounds, you’ll get lighter and be able to take on higher intensity training.
If you’re doing light cardio, you can do it 5 to 6 times a week. If you’re doing high intensity cardio, 3 times a week will suffice, or at most 4. You really do not need to have more than 4 high intensity sessions a week.
- Resistance Training
This is weight training where you lift barbells, dumbbells or use the swanky machines at the gym. The goal of resistance training is to strengthen your muscles and joints.
A well-rounded training program will have a mix of cardio and resistance training in it. For example, if you do 3 high intensity cardio sessions a week, you may wish to do resistance training on the 2 days when you take a break between each cardio session.
If you do light cardio 5 times a week, you may wish to engage in about 15 to 20 minutes of resistance training before you go for your walk or swim.
Resistance training can be done with weights or your own bodyweight. Depending on your level on fitness, you may decide if you wish to use heavier or lighter weights.
Always focus on compound movements, rather than isolation exercises. A deadlift or squat will always be better for weight loss than a bicep curl or a calf raise. Compound movements engage more muscle groups and burn more calories.
Training for weight loss is different from training for hypertrophy. If you’re building your body and trying to make it muscular, isolation movements may help to carve out better muscles. If you’re trying to shed the stubborn fat, compound movements are more effective.
Armed with this knowledge, structure a training program where you train 5 to 6 days a week with flexibility training every day.
Resistance training twice or three times a week. Cardio 5 times a week if it’s light and 3 times a week if it’s high intensity. Always have a day of rest where you do nothing. 2 days of rest is fine too.
Lastly, be consistent with your training program and avoid skipping workouts. If you skip one today, you might end up skipping the next day and the day after that.
Next thing you know, you’ve not trained in 10 years. So, be alert and stick to your regimen. That’s the only way you’ll see results.
Please contact me if you have questions or need help in structuring your new or old routine.