How Much Exercise Does it Take to Maintain Weight Loss?

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The health benefits of exercise are far-reaching, from preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia to helping you achieve or maintain weight loss. But you may be wondering: once you have hit your weight-loss goal, how much daily exercise do you need to keep that weight off?

Basic Exercise Guidelines

Most national and international guidelines recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week.

This can translate into 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times per week, for instance. And research has borne out the health benefits of a daily 30-minute walk: in the Nurses’ Health Study, for instance, those who walked briskly or otherwise achieved moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes every day had a low risk of sudden cardiac death during 26 years of follow-up.

What counts as moderate-intensity exercise? Physical activities such as general gardening, brisk walking, ballroom dancing, and the equivalent fall into the category of moderate-intensity exercise.

Additionally, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), obtaining at least 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise weekly can meet the minimum amount of recommended exercise. Vigorous-intensity exercise includes physical activities such as hiking uphill, bicycling at or above ten miles per hour, fast swimming, running, traditional aerobics, and heavy shoveling or ditch digging, among others.

Going Beyond the Basics: Maintaining Weight Loss

Note that the guidelines above are for a minimum of what everyone who is physically able should be doing on a regular basis, regardless of weight or body mass index (BMI). However, to maintain weight loss, not only is daily physical activity a must, but most experts recommend at least 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise every day just to keep the pounds from creeping back on.

Furthermore, studies have shown that greater amounts of daily exercise (of 45 minutes or longer) increase the magnitude of weight loss and weight maintenance.

Keep in mind, though, that exercise alone will not be sufficient for maintaining weight loss if healthy dietary changes are also not made and kept. In an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in April 2015, researchers argued that exercise alone--no matter how good it is for preventing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and even dementia—is not enough to treat or prevent obesity, or to overcome the damage done by a bad diet.

Take-Home Message

The take-home message here is clear: exercise and diet go hand in hand. All-around good health cannot be maintained if one is present without the other. To keep off the weight, stick to the good dietary changes that got you there, and keep up your exercise every single day for at least 45 minutes, if not longer.


Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. United States Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed online at on June 12, 2014.

Chiuve SE, Fung TT, Rexrode KM, Spiegelman D, et al. Adherence to a low-risk, healthy lifestyle and risk of sudden cardiac death among women. JAMA 2011; 306:62-69.

Donnelly JE, Smith B, Jacobsen DJ, et al. The role of exercise for weight loss and maintenance. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol 2004;18:1009-29.

Robertson C, Avenell A, Stewart F, et al. Clinical effectiveness of weight loss and weight maintenance interventions for men: a systematic review of men-only randomized controlled trials (The ROMEO Project). Am J Mens Health 2015 Jun 30.

Malhotra A, Noakes, T, Phinney S. Editorial: it is time to bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity: you cannot outrun a bad diet. Br J Sports Med 2015. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-094911.

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