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Exercise and activity for weight loss

Weight loss - activity; Weight loss - exercise; Obesity - activity


Weight loss

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An active lifestyle and exercise routine, along with eating healthy foods, is the best way to lose weight.

The Weight-loss Formula

Calories used in exercise > calories eaten = weight loss.

This means that to lose weight, the number of calories you burn by daily living and exercising needs to be greater than the number of calories from the foods you eat and drink. Even if you work out a lot, if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.

Another way to look at this is that a woman ages 30 to 50 years old who does not exercise needs about 1,800 calories a day to maintain her normal weight. A man ages 30 to 50 years old who does not exercise needs about 2,200 calories to maintain his normal weight.

For every hour of exercise they do, they would burn:

Even if you don't change the amount of calories in your diet, but you do add activity to your daily life, you'll lose weight or gain less weight.

Benefits of Weight Loss

An exercise weight-loss program that works needs to be fun and keep you motivated. It helps to have a specific goal. Your goal might be managing a health condition, reducing stress, improving your stamina, or being able to buy clothes in a smaller size. Your exercise program may also be a way for you to be with other people. Exercise classes or exercising with a buddy are both good social outlets.

You may have a hard time starting an exercise routine, but once you do, you will begin to notice other benefits. Improved sleep and self-esteem might be a couple of them. Other benefits you may not notice include increased bone and muscle strength and a lower risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Getting Started

You do not need to join a gym to get exercise. If you have not exercised or been active in a long time, be sure to start off slowly to prevent injuries. Taking a slow 10-minute walk twice a week is a good start. Then make it more brisk over time.

You can also try joining a dance, yoga, or karate class. You could also join a baseball or bowling team, or even a mall-walking group. The social aspects of these groups can be rewarding and motivating.

The most important thing is that you do exercises that you enjoy.

Build Physical Activity into Your Regular Routine

Simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference over time.

Reduce Your Screen Time

Sedentary behaviors are things you do while you are sitting still. Decreasing your sedentary behaviors can help you lose weight. For most people, the best way to decrease sedentary behavior is to reduce the time they spend watching TV and using a computer and other electronic devices. All of these activities are called "screen time."

Some ways to decrease the harm of too much screen time are:

If you like playing video games, try games that require you to move your whole body, not just your thumbs.

How Much Exercise do you Need?

Aim to exercise about 2.5 hours a week or more. Do moderate-intensity aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. Depending on your schedule, you could exercise 30 minutes 5 days a week or 45 to 60 minutes 3 days a week.

You do not have to do your total daily exercise all at once. If your goal is to exercise for 30 minutes, you can break that up into shorter time periods that add up to 30 minutes.

As you become more fit, you can challenge yourself by increasing the intensity of your exercise by going from light activity to moderate activity. You can also increase the amount of time you exercise.


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Cowley MA, Brown WA, Considine RV. Obesity: the problem and its management. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 26.

Jensen MD. Obesity. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 207.

US Preventive Services Task Force; Curry SJ, Krist AH, et al. Behavioral weight loss interventions to prevent obesity-related morbidity and mortality in adults: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. JAMA. 2018;320(11):1163-1171. PMID: 30326502


Review Date: 7/13/2020  

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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