Exercising to Lose Weight

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    Exercising to Lose Weight

    Exercising to Lose Weight

    Getting regular exercise is important for everyone. It is especially important if you are overweight. Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and several types of cancer. Exercising, and reducing the calories you consume, can help you lose weight and improve fitness and health.

    Exercise can be moderate or vigorous intensity. To lose weight, most people need to do a certain amount of moderate or vigorous-intensity exercise each week.

    How can exercise affect me?

    You lose weight when you exercise enough to burn more calories than you eat. Exercise also reduces body fat and builds muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Exercise also:
    • Improves mood.
    • Reduces stress and tension.
    • Improves your overall fitness, flexibility, and endurance.
    • Increases bone strength.

    Moderate-intensity exercise

    A person riding a bicycle wearing a safety helmet.

    Moderate-intensity exercise is any activity that gets you moving enough to burn at least three times more energy (calories) than if you were sitting.

    Examples of moderate exercise include:
    • Walking a mile in 15 minutes.
    • Doing light yard work.
    • Biking at an easy pace.

    Most people should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week to maintain their body weight.

    Vigorous-intensity exercise

    Vigorous-intensity exercise is any activity that gets you moving enough to burn at least six times more calories than if you were sitting. When you exercise at this intensity, you should be working hard enough that you are not able to carry on a conversation.

    Examples of vigorous exercise include:
    • Running.
    • Playing a team sport, such as football, basketball, and soccer.
    • Jumping rope.

    Most people should get at least 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise to maintain their body weight.

    What actions can I take to lose weight?

    The amount of exercise you need to lose weight depends on:
    • Your age.
    • The type of exercise.
    • Any health conditions you have.
    • Your overall physical ability.

    Talk to your health care provider about how much exercise you need and what types of activities are safe for you.


    A plate with healthy, colorful foods.
    • Make changes to your diet as told by your health care provider or diet and nutrition specialist (dietitian). This may include:
      • Eating fewer calories.
      • Eating more protein.
      • Eating less unhealthy fats.
      • Eating a diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein.
      • Avoiding foods with added fat, salt, and sugar.
    • Drink plenty of water while you exercise to prevent dehydration or heat stroke.


    • Choose an activity that you enjoy and set realistic goals. Your health care provider can help you make an exercise plan that works for you.
    • Exercise at a moderate or vigorous intensity most days of the week.
      • The intensity of exercise may vary from person to person. You can tell how intense a workout is for you by paying attention to your breathing and heartbeat. Most people will notice their breathing and heartbeat get faster with more intense exercise.
    • Do resistance training twice each week, such as:
      • Push-ups.
      • Sit-ups.
      • Lifting weights.
      • Using resistance bands.
    • Getting short amounts of exercise can be just as helpful as long, structured periods of exercise. If you have trouble finding time to exercise, try doing these things as part of your daily routine:
      • Get up, stretch, and walk around every 30 minutes throughout the day.
      • Go for a walk during your lunch break.
      • Park your car farther away from your destination.
      • If you take public transportation, get off one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
      • Make phone calls while standing up and walking around.
      • Take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators.
    • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes with good support.
    • Do not exercise so much that you hurt yourself, feel dizzy, or get very short of breath.

    Where to find more information

    • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

    Contact a health care provider:

    • Before starting a new exercise program.
    • If you have questions or concerns about your weight.
    • If you have a medical problem that keeps you from exercising.

    Get help right away if:

    • You have any of the following while exercising:
      • Injury.
      • Dizziness.
      • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath that does not go away when you stop exercising.
      • Chest pain.
      • Rapid heartbeat.

    These symptoms may represent a serious problem that is an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.). Do not drive yourself to the hospital.


    • Getting regular exercise is especially important if you are overweight.
    • Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and several types of cancer.
    • Losing weight happens when you burn more calories than you eat.
    • Reducing the amount of calories you eat, and getting regular moderate or vigorous exercise each week, helps you lose weight.

    This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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