Weight loss: How much exercise do you need to lose weight?

How much exercise do we need to lose weight each week? Science has the answer

Fitness swimming
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It's common knowledge that it's very difficult to lose weight through exercise alone. Although exercise burns calories and builds muscle, keeping you active throughout your life, it also makes you hungry. If you're not limiting your calories or controlling your intake, you could be piling on the pounds instead of losing them.

So how much exercise do we need to do in order to lose weight fast? To test this, scientists split a group of overweight men and women into two test groups. Both groups worked out five days a week, but one group burned around 1,500 calories a week while the other burned 3,000. 

The research, published in the American Journal of Physiology, found that all the participants' appetites increased as a result of the workout schedules. However, this increase was the same for everyone, no matter how much they worked out. 

Everyone involved consumed around 1,000 calories more than they normally would during the study. This meant one group had a net loss of just 500 calories each week, while the other lost 2,000 calories. This meant the second group obviously lost a lot more weight than the first. 

No-one's overall metabolic rate changed very much during the study. However, those who burned 3,000 calories a week had shown an increased sensitivity to a hormone called leptin, which is produced naturally in the body and is essential for regulating appetite.


(Image credit: Christopher Campbell/Unsplash)

This increased sensitivity meant the people in the 3,000 calorie group began to regulate their appetite more efficiently. Not only were they burning more calories as a result of increased exercise, but they were also beginning to get less hungry than the first group, who only did half the amount of exercise.

The takeaway? If you only rely on exercise to lose weight, you will have to do a lot of it, burning 600 calories a day, five days a week, for it to really take effect. However, if you adopt a healthy diet, consuming less calories and combining that with lots of exercise, you'll lose weight faster.

Of course, it's not just about how many calories you're eating: you want to make sure you're eating plenty of protein to build muscle and lots of healthy fats, which contain fatty acids like omega-3. Oily fish contains both.

Finally, ensure you're eating lots of natural, varied foods to get lots of different micronutrients – your vitamins and minerals which keep your bones, teeth, skin muscles and organs healthy, fit and well.

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.