How Long Should I Work Out to Lose Weight?

Adjust your cardio workout duration to lose weight faster

how long to work out
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One of the most common questions that new exercisers ask is: “how long should I work out to lose weight?” When people ask the question, they are usually hoping for an answer that gets them off the hook for long aerobic workouts. And, in fact, the recent trend is to do shorter workouts for weight loss. But that fad could get you into trouble if you're trying to lose weight.

The best method to determine how long to work out shouldn't be based on trends.

This doesn't mean that you don’t have to go to the gym for hours every day. But you will have to do some cardiovascular workouts that last a little bit longer if you want to lose weight and keep it off.

How Long to Work Out Each Week

According to the American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM), you should exercise for 150 - 250 minutes per week to lose weight. They also suggest that more exercise provides better results. If you want to keep the weight off for good, the ACSM prescribes a minimum of 250 minutes of moderate to high-intensity exercise per week.

To meet the ACSM guideline, you could simply exercise for 40 minutes every day. But that workout schedule can get boring, which may cause you to quit your program. In addition, to lose weight effectively you need to exercise at different intensity levels. This requires that you adjust your workout duration to accommodate the various workloads.

How Long to Work Out Each Day

How long you exercise every day should depend on your goal for that specific workout. If you are healthy enough for vigorous exercise, your workout program should include hard days, when you work at a high-intensity level, easy days when you allow your body to recover, and moderate days when your goal is to build endurance, improve heart health and burn fat.

Each of these workout goals requires a different exercise duration.

  • Hard workout days. High-intensity intervals (HIIT) workouts need to be short. Why? Because your body simply can’t work very hard for a long period of time. If you find that you can complete high-intensity drills for an hour or longer, you’re probably not working hard enough. HIIT workouts should last 20-30 minutes and feel very hard. Keep in mind, however, that you burn more calories from EPOC, also known as “the afterburn”, if you structure high-intensity workouts properly.
  • Easy workout days. The purpose of an easy day workout is to allow your body and your mind to rest. Of course, you could sit on the couch to recover as well. But an active recovery helps to increase your body’s range of motion, decreases your stress level and increases your daily caloric burn. An easy workout can last 30-45 minutes.
  • Moderate workout days. Most of your workouts during the week will fall into the moderate category. These workouts burn more calories than a recovery day, but still allow your body to recover and prepare for high-intensity workout days. However, because your body isn't working as hard on moderate workout days, you need to exercise for a longer period of time to burn enough calories to lose weight. Try to make these sessions last 45 minutes or longer. If possible, schedule one long workout, 75 minutes or more, during the week. This longer session challenges you mentally and builds cardiovascular endurance.

    So how do you fit all of these workouts into your weekly schedule? Trying to create a weekly schedule with just the right amount of exercise can be tricky. You can design a plan on your own or use my Easy Weekly Workout Schedules create your own exercise plan.

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