Can Doing Just Push-Ups Make You Lose Weight?

Portrait of personal trainer woman and man doing push ups at the gym.
Push-ups can be part of a weight-loss regimen. (Image: gzorgz/iStock/Getty Images)

Exercise can certainly help you lose weight by burning calories and building muscle. But, doing just push-ups — even daily — is unlikely to be rigorous enough to burn enough calories to lose a lot of pounds. Push-ups alone also fail to stimulate total-body muscle gains that raise your metabolism and make you a lean machine.

To lose weight, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 250 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise weekly. Moderate-intensity exercise is equal to brisk walking or playing a game of doubles tennis. It's unlikely you could fit in 250 minutes of push-ups weekly, and even if you could, this repetition would lead to join pain from overuse.

Push-ups are a functional exercise that build stamina and strength in many major muscle groups. Include them as a part of your weight-loss regimen, but not as the sole exercise.

Push-Ups Impact on Your Weight

Although other factors do come into play, weight loss essentially comes down to creating a caloric deficit. A pound of fat is roughly equal to 3,500 calories. To create that deficit, you may eat fewer calories, burn more calories or do both.

A 5-minute bout of push-ups performed at a moderate pace burns about 28 calories for a 150-pound person. Pick that pace up to a vigorous, heart-pumping level and burn 48 calories. Ultimately, how many calories you burn depends on your size.

It's unlikely you could keep up a full 5 minutes of push-ups with no break — even the fittest of folks fail after a few minutes. Even if you can do such a marathon push-up workout and perform it three times per day, you'll burn about 150 calories extra — provided you don't change your calorie intake in any way or add any additional movement. This might lead you to lose 1 pound in 23 days — but it's highly unlikely.

Clearly, push-ups aren't the shortest or most effective route to weight loss.

fitness running sports equipment, water phone music towel apple on wooden floor, healthy lifestyle
Comprehensive exercise plans and a healthy diet supports weight loss. (Image: PRImageFactory/iStock/Getty Images)

Best Ways to Lose Weight

Combine more physical activity with a slight reduction of calories to help you drop pounds. You want to partake in a variety of activities, such as walking, swimming, gardening, cycling, dancing and calisthenics — which can include push-ups — so that your mind, and body, don't burn out. The more challenged you are, the more calories you'll burn, too.

Strength-training is another important component, as it adds lean muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories at rest than does fat tissue because it requires a greater amount of energy for your body to support. This raises your overall metabolism — the rate at which you burn calories — so you find it easier to drop pounds.

Push-ups count as strength-training, but won't give you the kind of well-rounded workout that gives you real results. Augment them with lunges, squats, rows, curls and presses, for example. Add resistance as you become proficient at these moves to burn more calories and build more muscle.

Don't Forget: What You Eat Matters

Your diet also plays a tremendous role in your ability to lose weight. If you eat more calories than you burn daily, it won't matter how many push-ups and other exercise you do. You'll prevent weight loss and even gain weight if you aren't careful.

Consider trimming just 250 calories daily to help you lose 1/2 a pound per week. This might mean skipping an extra tablespoon of cream in your coffee, a healthy dab of butter on your toast and a slice of cheese in your sandwich.

Other ways to trim calories are to choose leaner cuts of protein — such as white-meat poultry over dark meat — and to skip a fancy coffee drink or soda in the afternoon. These small steps add up over time and will lead to sustainable weight loss if you keep them up for the long term.

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