Making a commitment to lose 10 pounds is a simple choice that could have a big effect on your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight makes a difference in your blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugars.
If you're planning a workout schedule, you're no doubt wondering whether you can lose a few pounds in a week — or even a few pounds in a day. But are these goals realistic? If so, what's it going to take?
Losing 10 pounds will require a deficit of 35,000 calories over a period of time. If you focus on burning 500 calories a day through one hour of vigorous physical activity, you can lose 1 pound a week and achieve your goal within 10 weeks.
Calories in 10 Pounds
To lose 1 pound of body fat, you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you're consuming through your diet. Many times, your weight-loss effort will combine healthy eating with physical activity, but assuming your diet is already good (and you're not planning to cut any calories from how much you're eating), you'll have to create that deficit through exercise.
If you do the math, you know that, in order to lose 10 pounds, you'll need to create an ultimate deficit of 35,000 calories. It's important to note, however, that if the scale shows a 10-pound loss, it's not necessarily 10 pounds of fat because losing fat often also means losing lean tissue and water.
Losing Weight Slowly and Steadily
Maybe you're aiming to lose 10 pounds in as little time as a month. Creating that 35,000-calorie deficit in only 30 days would require you to burn an additional 1,166 calories every day! That's not a very realistic goal.
That's OK, though. Losing weight slowly means you'll be more likely to keep it off. Aim for losing 1 to 2 pounds a week, which means you could lose 10 pounds within five to 10 weeks. To achieve this, you would need to create a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories a day, which is much more realistic.
Exercise: Getting the Right Amount
Healthy adults need 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, every week, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Some individuals trying to lose weight will need as much as 300 minutes a day (approximately one hour five days a week with two rest days, or 42 minutes a day, seven days a week).
If you're not cutting calories from your diet, you need at least 1 hour of exercise a day for a weight loss of 1 pound a week. A 154-pound person can burn more than 500 calories in an hour doing such vigorous activities as running, bicycling or swimming laps. One hour of these activities (or an equivalent activity) every day for 10 weeks will lead to a 10-pound loss.
So, how much exercise do you need to lose 20 pounds? In theory, you could continue your deficit of 500 calories a day for 20 weeks, but, as already noted, weight loss is complicated. Your body will adjust to your new lifestyle, and you may need to increase your efforts to continue burning fat.
Understanding Spot Reduction
It's not unusual for a person to be especially self-conscious about a particular part of his body. The bad news? As the American Council on Exercise reminds us, you can't "spot reduce." That means you can't lose fat from one specific area of the body by doing certain exercises or following a certain diet.
Exercises like crunches or sit-ups won't burn off belly fat any more than other calorie-burning activities. In fact, focusing on and sticking to a limited group of exercises can be detrimental to your wellness goals because you're not strengthening your entire body, just certain parts of it.
Focus on a combination of cardiorespiratory and strength training, along with a healthy diet, to get the results you want.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Losing Weight"
- Mayo Clinic: "Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- American Council on Exercise: "How Can I Get Rid of Belly Fat?"
- Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"