Obesity is one of the biggest problems facing the western world today, and more than three quarters of all Americans have attempted to lose weight at some point in their lives; most have struggled, either in losing weight, or in keeping that weight off once diet or exercise regimes have passed.
Exercise is widely acknowledged as one of the best ways to keep away excess pounds, but while many people long to exercise for weight loss, they often feel confused about how often to exercise, how often, and what kind of exercise is best. The biggest confusions lie around the question of how much time should a person exercise for each day, in order to maximise weight loss.
Popular wisdom states that it is necessary to exercise for around an hour every day in order to burn enough calories to effect weight loss. This has lead to beliefs that a person doing walking exercise needs to cover 5 miles a day in order to lose weight, but this is of course not constant; in addition, people ‘lose’ energy throughout the day after exercise, due to an increase in their metabolism. Often, people struggle with higher-activity exercise, as it causes stress and wear upon the body, and therefore they prefer shorter bursts of high activity, or one long session of moderate activity.
A study has also shown that there is little-to-no difference between many short bursts of exercise, and one long session, when measuring weight loss, continuance of the exercise, and improvements in fitness. Multiple short sessions are obviously more conveniently fitted into daily life, and short exercise with equipment actually resulted in people exercising more often; it is shown that longer periods of exercise for weight loss, if only done infrequently, has no greater effect at all. Therefore, how long to exercise for weight loss becomes a question of what kind of activity is being performed, and how often this weight-loss exercise should be performed.
Yale university conducted a similar study in which they showed that women exercising for 20 minutes (doing 8 seconds of running with 12 seconds of moderate exercise for the 20 mins) lost more fat than women doing 40 minutes of constant moderate exercise. Intervals became very popular for a while; and it remains one of the best ways of exercising for short periods while obtaining the results of a long period of exercise.
What these studies have shown is that it is not just a matter of how long to exercise for weight loss, but the frequency of exercise, and the rate at which the exercise is performed. A high-rate activity will burn up calories more quickly than a moderate activity, and so less time needs to be spent on harder exercise to lose the same amount of weight as something more moderate. Running burns up about two times as many calories as walking; so running for 20 mins will help weight loss more quickly than walking for 20 minutes. Anyone considering how long to exercise for weight loss should bear this in mind.