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How Many Hours a Week Should You Work Out to Lose Weight?

author image Michelle Powell-Smith
With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.
How Many Hours a Week Should You Work Out to Lose Weight?
Make the most of your workouts for weight loss.

Exercise is a key component to weight loss, but deciding how much to exercise may be more difficult. Workout length and frequency can make a difference your diet success. Maximizing the benefits from your workouts can help you burn more calories, improve your fitness, and tone your muscles. Check with your physician before you begin a vigorous exercise program designed to support weight loss.

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Exercise routines for weight loss should incorporate both cardiovascular workouts and strength training. Aerobic exercise burns calories, whether you opt for walking, jogging, or using cardiovascular machines at the gym. Harder and longer workouts will burn more calories. Strength training, like weight lifting, increases muscle mass and strength and tones your body, according to MedlinePlus.

Time Frame

All adults should spend at least two and one-half hours a week doing aerobic exercise and include at least two strength training sessions each week, reports MedlinePlus. These are the minimum recommendations from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Increase the intensity and length of your workouts to support weight loss, suggests The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend 60 to 90 minutes of exercise most days a week.


Exercise burns calories and will support weight loss and good general health. The calories burned by exercise may vary depending upon your workouts, your weight, and your fitness level. According to Jane E. Brody's "Exercise = Weight Loss, Except When It Doesn’t," published in the New York Times, the harder and longer you work out, the more calories you will burn. Keep your workouts challenging and make the most of your exercise time by changing activities or opting for circuit or interval training.


If you diet without exercising, you will lose both muscle and fat, according to Ralph La Forge, managing director of the Duke University Medical Center Duke Lipid and Disease Management Preceptorship Program. Losing muscle will lower the total number of calories you burn as you go about your day, so maintaining muscle mass is key for weight loss and maintenance. Increased muscle mass may improve your basal metabolic rate or BMR.


Exercise alone may not result in weight loss. A study by Dr. Timothy Church, chair of health wisdom at Louisiana State University published in the journal "Public Library of Science One" suggests that many people compensate for exercise with additional food and calorie consumption. Account for the calories in your post-workout sports drink or snack and avoid increasing your calorie total to get the most weight loss benefit from your workout.

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