How To Control Your Weight With Regular Physical Activity

Regular physical activity can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Being physically active can make you more energetic, improve your mood, and reduce the risk of developing some chronic diseases. Physical activity also helps you feel, move, and look better.

Whether your goal is to achieve and maintain a healthy weight or improve your health, becoming physically active is a step in the right direction.

Learn how to better take advantage of the health benefits of physical activity.

Calories In vs Calories Out

Calories in Food > Calories Used = Weight Gain
Calories in Food < Calories Used = Weight Loss
Calories in Food = Calories Used = Weight Control

Physical activity helps you control your weight by using excess calories that would otherwise be stored as fat. Most foods contain calories, and everything you do uses calories, including sleeping, breathing, and digesting food. Balancing the calories you eat with the calories you use through physical activity will help you maintain a healthy weight.

Becoming Physically Active

Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, particularly after you have lost a large amount of weight, you may need to do 60 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity each day.

If you have been inactive for a while, start slowly and work up to 30 minutes a day at a pace that is comfortable for you.

Many Forms Of Physical Activity

Physical activity may include structured activities such as:

Physical activity also includes daily activities such as household chores, yard work, or walking the dog.

Pick a combination of structured and daily activities that fit your schedule.

Note: If you are unable to be active for 30 minutes at one time, accumulate physical activity over the course of the day in 10 to 15-minute sessions.

Health Benefits of Physical Activity

Regular physical activity helps control your weight and may help reduce your risk of or manage chronic diseases such as:

Regular physical activity may also help:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • osteoporosis
  • arthritis
  • some cancers
  • Build strong muscles, bones, and joints.
  • Improve flexibility and balance.
  • Ward off depression.
  • Improve mood and sense of well-being.

Aerobic Activity

You can meet your goal of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity with aerobic activities. Aerobic exercise includes activities that make you breathe harder than when you are resting and increase your heart rate.

Experts recommend moderate-intensity exercise. At this pace, you may breathe harder and find it more difficult to talk, but you should still be able to carry on conversations. If you're just beginning, slowly work up to a moderate-intensity pace.

Getting Started!

To add more physical activity to your daily life try:

  • Taking a brisk walk around the block with family, friends, or coworkers.
  • Raking the leaves.
  • Walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator when it is safe to do so.
  • Mowing the lawn.
  • Taking an activity break at work or home. Get up and stretch or walk around.
  • Parking your car further away from entrances of stores, movie theaters, or your home and walk the extra distance when it is safe to do so.

Keep Moving!

Move at your own pace while you enjoy some of these activities:

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Aerobic exercise classes (step aerobics, kick boxing, high/low)
  • Dancing (square dancing, salsa, African dance, swing)
  • Playing sports (basketball, soccer)

Tips to a Safe and Successful Physical Activity Program

  • Check with your health care provider. If you have a chronic health problem such as obesity, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure, ask your health care provider about what type and amount of physical activity is right for you.
  • Start slowly. Incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine and gradually work up to the 30-minute goal to improve health and manage your weight.
  • Set goals. Set short-term and long-term goals and celebrate every success.
  • Track progress. Keep an activity log to track your progress. Note when you worked out, what activity you did, how long you did the activity, and how you felt during your workout.
  • Think variety. Choose a variety of physical activities to help you meet your goals, prevent boredom, and keep your mind and body challenged.
  • Be comfortable. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that are appropriate to the activity.
  • Eat nutritious foods. Choose a variety of nutritious foods every day. Remember that your health and weight depend on both your eating plan and physical activity level.
  • Get support. Encourage your family and friends to support you and join you in your activity. Form walking groups with coworkers, play with your children outside, or take a dance class with friends.

Listen To Your Body

Stop exercising and consult your health care provider if you experience chest discomfort or pain, dizziness, severe headache, or other unusual symptoms while you work out. If pain does not go away, get medical help right away. If you are feeling fatigued or sick, take time off from your routine to rest. You can ease back into your program when you start feeling better.


NIH Publication No. 03-4031, Physical Activity And Weight Control