Today, I’m gonna show you how much exercise to lose weight you actually need to do.
You might be surprised by the number I’m about to give you.
Make sure to read all the way through the end because I’m gonna show you a strategy to get the most out of your workouts in the least amount of time possible.
There is a way.
How Much Exercise To Lose Weight?
Now, who am I to tell you how much exercise you need to do to lose weight?
Some of the haters will say I’m not a big guy. Although I can’t do anything about my stature, I was a national level weightlifter for years training with some of the best weightlifters in Canada.
I placed second worldwide in my weight class in an online weightlifting competition. I own all the provincial records in my weight class up to this day.
In short, I used to be a competitive exerciser in a sport where I had to make weight.
The problem with the conventional wisdom for exercise
Now, a lot of people are told or are under the impression that they have to do a lot in terms of energy expenditure in order to lose weight.
This goes back to the infamous ‘calories in vs calories out’ weight loss model. So now you’ve got the masses sweating their hearts out on the treadmill or whatever their favourite cardio machine is. Or ,they do these overly strenuous group fitness classes.
But not only is that ineffective, it’s also boring when you’re just on an elliptical machine.
The rate of sustainability is also very low. Especially when you do these super intense cardio based group fitness classes where it almost feels like a near death experience every time you do it.
I go to a Muay Thai gym and the cardio classes are always packed.
The barrier of entry is also high. Especially with this public health problem going around. You have to reserve your spot ahead of time.
Then you have to find the time to go to the gym. You gotta get dressed, get in the car, drive through traffic, get changed, drive back home, and a whole list of other things.
That hour long workout looks more like an hour and a half or even two hours, when you add up all the things I just mentioned. No wonder making it to the gym can be such a drag for a lot of people.
In reality, the exercise component of weight loss is actually very minor. And, not terribly effective.
More exercise does NOT equal more weight loss
Exercise has many benefits but weight loss isn’t one of them. What I’m trying to say is more exercise does not equal more weight loss.
A mind blowing study done by Herman Pontzer on the Hadza people in Tanzania proves that concept.
Hadza men and women regularly walk 4-7 miles a day hunting wild game, harvesting honey, digging for tubers, picking berries, or gathering water and wood.
Put simply, they get more activity in a day than the average American or European gets in a week.
Here’s what’s surprisingly. The researchers found that the Hadza don’t burn more calories than average adults in the U.S. and other industrialized countries.
Hadza men burn about 2,500 calories a day. For Hadza women, it’s 1,900 calories. That’s par for the course.
Like I said, exercise has many benefits. It’s just not going to help you drop that 15 pounds of unwanted body fat by itself.
What’s making us fat, the data suggests, is eating too much of the wrong food rather than moving too little. Basically, it’s more gluttony than sloth.
A lot “influencers” convince the masses to go to the gym to do battle ropes, do a Spin Class, then go do a HIIT class, or whatever is hip out there.
Nobody is gonna do that consistently. That’s just the reality of it. I’ve coached thousands of people by proxy when I used to teach classes at my local gym.
Personally, I’m a gym rat. It’s definitely my thing. As well as a very small group of people out there. But that’s more of the exception, not the rule.
I can’t assume that everybody wants to go to the gym and sweat, get tired and breathe heavy, and all that stuff. Most people don’t.
And I’m here to tell you today that you don’t have to. Instead, you can just start by picking off the lowest hanging fruit of exercise by going for a 10 minute walk. Ideally, at least 3 times a day.
Before you drop $1500 on a Peloton or a fitness mirror, see if you can go for a 10 minute walk every day for a week. Then you can buy the expensive machine.
If you can’t commit to a daily walking routine, you probably shouldn’t buy the machine. It’s most likely just gonna collect dust.
The AMAZING benefits of walking
If you wanna maximize your results from walking, go for a 10 minute walk after every meal. Within 15 minutes of finishing a meal to let your body digest a little bit, go for a walk.
If you eat three square meals a day, there’s your daily walking requirement.
Why am I such a big fan of walking? Number one, it’s sustainable. Almost anybody can do it. You can do it anywhere. You don’t need any special equipment to do it. If the weather is terrible, you can just bundle up.
I’m in Canada right now and we had a cold spell for a week where the temperature dropped in the -30’s celsius or -22 Fahrenheit. Plus the wind chill which makes it feel colder. You can bet that I was still out there walking like a nerd.
There’s actually some treadmills in my building but there’s so many added benefits to doing your walks outdoors like exposing your eyes to the sun.
You also get the stress lowering benefits from forest or nature bathing. There’s a park next to my building and I do my walks there.
Walking in the cold also acts as a free cryotherapy session which also brings a boat load of benefits. The cold is your friend. That’s why I do my walks outdoors regardless of the weather. If the sun is out in the summer, I walk around shirtless.
But if you’re not a crazy person like me walking in frigid temperatures. I totally get it. At worst, you can walk around your house.
Again, walking has so many unbelievable benefits. Blood sugar control being one of the major ones for the context of this post.
We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic
We live in a society where 88% of American adults have some form of metabolic dysfunction.
A lot of skinny fat people belong in that 88 percentile. Dr. Phil Maffetone refers to them as over-fat people. Meaning only 1 out of every 10 would be considered metabolically healthy. We have an over-fat epidemic.
1 in 2 American adults have pre-diabetes. Most of them don’t even know they have it. Ask yourself, when was the last time you got blood work done?
70% of American adults are either overweight or obese. Experts are predicting that number to reach 90% by 2030. The obesity rate is at a staggering 42%. Childhood obesity is also at an all time high.
I spent a year living in Mexico and their rates of obesity is also skyrocketing. They’re sitting right now at 28.90%. In Canada where I am right now, it’s actually higher at 29.40%. That data is from 2016.
It’s almost guaranteed to be higher at this point. Especially during this public health problem we’ve had over the past two years where the average weight gain in the US is 42 pounds.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Because walking is twice as effective as metformin for preventing or reversing type 2 diabetes, as studied.
Twice as effective, which is mind blowing, without the potential side effects of taking a prescription drug. And, it’s free.
It decreases the peak and duration of glucose elevation. Right behind, of course, the area under the curve for insulin. So that’s a very healthy option for managing blood sugar. Everyone should be ecstatic about that information.
That effectiveness of managing blood sugar and insulin has also been proven by people wearing CGM’s. Lower peak and lower duration. It actually cuts it by half if you go for a 15 minute walk.
The best exercise to lose fat?
I don’t recommend walking for weight loss per se. Although the calories you do burn is mostly coming from fatty acids. Because walking almost guarantees to keep you below your maximum aerobic heart rate. That’s the infamous fat burning zone.
That’s a number popularized by legendary endurance coach Dr. Phil Maffetone. It’s 180 minus your age in BPM in case you’re wondering.
I also don’t tell my coaching clients to do cardio for calories. Because however many calories it says on your fitness tracker or cardio machine is largely inaccurate anyway. Don’t even look at it.
Walking is also unbelievably great for digestion because of the mechanism of the stomach and muscles moving. A lot of cultures have been practicing walking after a meal for centuries, like the Italians.
Walking is also great for general health. It elevates your heart rate and lowers blood pressure.
It’s great for stress release because it elevates your mood. It stimulates the production of a myokine called BDNF which is often touted as Miracle Grow for the brain. Some experts even argue that you actually wanna exercise for the brain.
Why adherence is EVERYTHING when it comes to exercise
But again, the biggest thing about walking is sustainability. Truth be told, I was a little late to the walking party. I really only adapted it a few years ago.
But now I do it religiously because of all the benefits I just mentioned. I do it when I’m in transit.
Quick funny story. When I was leaving Mexico and I was waiting for boarding, I’m one of those people that’s just walking around the airport.
Well, for some reason airport security thought that I was acting weird and decided to flag me and ask questions. Maybe it’s the tattoo, I don’t know.
I intentionally take the stairs, I park further away because all the open spots are there anyway, and I go for walking dates. I live downtown so I always try to walk to places.
When I eat out, I always try to walk home after my meal. Or, I set a timer for 5 minutes, I walk around the street then I walk back to my car or I take an Uber home.
That walking habit gets you 90% of your “exercise” requirement for health.
Why you should do resistance training
Now, let’s talk about what you should pair walking with which is the 10% of your exercise equation.
It’s none other than resistance training. Because it’s pro tissue. Meaning, it’s the only form of exercise that builds and maintains muscle.
Muscle is the largest organ in the body. It’s an endocrine organ. It’s also the largest site for glucose disposal. Muscle is the mechanism of health. It’s your metabolic currency.
That’s why resistance training is far superior than cardio. There’s no comparison. It’s not even close. In fact, resistance training is cardio.
It also plays a key role when you’re dieting because it allows you to hold on to your muscles.
When you’re on a calorie deficit, the weight you lose is both muscle and fat. If you do resistance training, the weight you lose can just be fat. That’s how you get that tight and toned look.
What I’ve also learned over the years, and this is backed up by new research, it doesn’t have to be heavy.
You DON’T need to go to the gym (if you don’t want to)
You don’t even need to go to the gym if you don’t want to. That right there removes all the barrier for exercise. As long as you get enough volume and it’s intense, you’re fine.
You can do bodyweight movements like squats and pushups at home. You can also get yourself some cheap bands. Depending on your budget, you can get a decent set for $30.
You can do your workouts strategically before your meals. That opens up your muscle “suitcase.” So if you consume carbs post workout, it gets transported to refill you liver and muscle glycogen stores. That’s how you earn your carbs.
The cool part about this is you only have to do it twice a week. That’s the minimum effective dose of resistance training.
More exercise ISN’T always better
Now, I’m gonna give you two reasons why I don’t recommend doing more for people that wanna lose weight. This goes back to energy expenditure and how much work you do.
First, again, it’s not easy for people to comply with long term. You can only expect the average to workout twice a week. That’s just the reality of it.
Again, this is from coaching thousands of people by proxy when I coached CrossFit and weightlifting classes at my local gym.
The second reason is compensation. This has been proven time and time again.
The harder you work, so you go to the gym, you do Spin, CrossFit, or HIIT. The more likely it is that you’re gonna go home and eat more and turn into a couch potato for the rest of the day.
Experts call that the compensation theory.
That is a very common problem when people start workout programs and they can’t figure out why they’re not losing weight after that initial burst of excitement.
People do lose some weight at the beginning. Until the body eventually catches up to this unsustainable thing that they’re doing.
What tends to happen is they do a near death experience workout at the gym, and they’re completely exhausted afterwards.
The unintended consequence is you tend to eat more food and sit more. I used to be guilty of that. And the energy expenditure of that particular workout does NOT burn as many calories as the NEAT.
Meaning just staying on your feet and being active throughout the day like going for those 10-15 minute walks. A lot of fitness “influencers’ and trainers fail to make that distinction.
Again, think about the studies done on the Hadza in Africa.
You’re NOT burning as many calories as you think
30-40 minutes of gym time doesn’t burn as many calories as being active all day. An hour of hard cardio only burns around 400 calories. You immediately erase that if you eat a Krispy Kreme donut afterwards.
I used to do my editing at a coffee shop right beside a Spin studio. And the amount of people I see get a latte and a scone after their workout was alarming.
Do the math. You expend calories just being around in life. So you’re not burning that much more when you’re hating your life on the elliptical.
That’s why I’d much prefer minimizing gym time to keep it sustainable and just have you live more of an active lifestyle. Stay on your feet. Move around.
There’s a disturbing stat that if you sit for 8 hours a day, you have a 90% chance of developing diabetes. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I switched to a stand up desk.
Live an active lifestyle. That promotes optimal gene expression because we evolved to move as human being. Go for a 10-15 minute walk three times a day. Do resistance training twice a week. 10-30 minutes is all you need. That’s where I’m at these days.
Being the exercise junkie that I am, I sprinkle in these little 1-2 minute micro workouts a couple of times a day. I call them exercise snacks.
In doing so, I maintain a physique that I’m happy with. I do it for the cognitive benefits. It keeps my brain happy and sharp.
More importantly, it’s sustainable. It works for me. It also gives me a little bit more carb allowance. I’m not sweating if I’ve gone past the 50 gram carb allowance like a lot of the keto bro’s out there.
I’m also not doing “cardio.” Although I do Muay Thai for play and socializing. It doesn’t feel work when I do it. I look forward to it.
I also do the occasional sprint workout for the beneficial hormonal and metabolic adaptations. But that’s beyond the scope of this post.
The BEST exercise for weight loss
In terms of specific movements for resistance training, I’m a big fan of doing supersets. It allows you to do more work in less time. It keeps the workout short and intense.
Doing a push/pull workout is a classic example of a superset. You can do a dip or a pushup. Rest for a minute. Then you can do pull-ups or some banded rows. Rest for a minute. Then do more dips, rest, pull-ups, rest, and repeat that cycle.
Then you can do some squats combined with some hamstring exercise like an RDL. The pull ups hits your biceps and lats. The dips hits your triceps and a little bit of your chest.
Two minutes in between major muscle groups is also enough time for ATP recovery so you can go hard again.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the body’s primary energy resource for ANY muscle contraction or force exertion.
If you go below that recommended two minute rest, then the workout kinda becomes more cardio based.
There’s still benefits to that, don’t get me wrong. But if you really wanna maximize building muscle, minimum two minute rest between major muscle groups.
That’s why doing supersets of push and pull with 1 minute breaks works really well.
Because the time between each set of pushing movement set is a little bit over 2 minutes. Again, that’s enough time for ATP recovery which maintains strength throughout the workout, and you’re not dropping off.
If let’s say you lower your rest to 30 seconds when you’re doing super supersets, you’re not gonna be able to do as many reps. Or you’re gonna have to take some weight off to get the same amount of reps.
That’s not optimal for hypertrophy which is a fancy word for an increase and growth of muscle cells.
The PROBLEM with group fitness classes
That’s why I’m not a big fan of overdoing HIIT classes. I’m even gonna clump CrossFit in that category even though I love CrossFit workouts.
It’s too fatigue seeking if you do too many metcon style workouts, which is what CrossFit is really popular for, where the goal is to just do as many reps in as little amount of time possible.
That’s when you see people’s form start to break down. Unfortunately, that’s what gets highlighted when you see some of these people bashing CrossFit and labelling it as dangerous.
But again, going back to our more controlled supersets with adequate rest in between. You don’t need a stupid amount of time to do those movements for the average person. Unless you have bodybuilding aspirations.
But for the average person that wants to look good shirtless, have that tight and toned look, maybe see some abs, and fit better in your clothes, that’s all you need.
Because those compound movements involve a lot of muscle groups. You can do them very quickly especially if you do supersets. If you’re not slacking, you can be done your workout in 10-30 minutes.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time warming up or 30 minutes of prehab. Especially if you just doing bodyweight movements or bands. I mean, you can if you want to.
But just get in there and do the work. Lions and cheetahs don’t warm up. They just do cool feline things.
How much exercise do you need to lose weight?
In terms of volume, do around 3 to 5 sets for each body part per workout. So that’s 6 to 10 sets in total for the week, if you do it twice a week. You’ll obviously build more muscle if you go on the the higher range because of volume.
If you superset and you’re not on your phone in between sets, you’re done each workout in no time.
In terms of reps, anywhere between a heavy 5, a moderate 10, to a light 20 reps. Use that higher number if you’re doing bodyweight exercises.
You’re obviously gonna get a little bit stronger lifting the heavy 5 and doing 5 sets. But they all result in significant hypertrophy results for the average person. Assuming you work hard and you get within 2-3 reps of failure.
That’s the intensity level part. You gotta be honest with your effort. If you’re doing bodyweight exercise, 5 is pretty easy. If you do 20, it’s a lot more intense.
Twice a week. 10-30 minutes to trigger a muscle adaptation. That’s it. Then do three, 10-15 minute walks every day especially after a meal. That’s how much exercise to lose weight you actually need. Simple, right?
As always, if this was helpful, share it with a friend who could benefit from it as well!
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