How much exercise is optimal for weight management?
by David Dunaief
Jan 29, 2019 | 6113 views | 0 0 comments | 559 559 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. David Dunaief is located in Downtown Brooklyn and focuses on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management.
Dr. David Dunaief is located in Downtown Brooklyn and focuses on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management.
Many people make a New Year’s resolution to exercise regularly. The goal is often to change body composition, lose weight, or at least to maintain weight. How much exercise is best for these purposes?

You would think the answer would be straightforward, since exercise helps us prevent and resolve a great many diseases.

There are some intriguing studies that address whether exercise has an impact on weight management. The short answer is yes; however, not always in ways we might expect.


It seems logical that the more we exercise to lose weight, the better. However, in a small randomized controlled trial (RCT), the gold standard of studies, results showed that the moderate group in terms of duration saw the most benefit for weight loss.

There were three groups in the study — a sedentary group, a group that did 30 minutes per day of aerobic exercise and a group that did 60 minutes per day of aerobic exercise, which involved biking, jogging or other perspiring activities.

Perhaps obviously, the sedentary group did not see a change in weight. Surprisingly, though, the 30-minute exercise group experienced not only significantly more weight loss than the sedentary group, but also more than the 60-minute exercise group. These were healthy young men who were overweight, but not obese, and the study duration was three months.

The authors surmise that the reason for these results is that the moderate group may have garnered more energy and moved around more during the remainder of the day, as sensors showed. The highest exercise group was sedentary through most of the rest of day, probably due to fatigue. While this study is of impressive quality, it is small and of short duration.

Postmenopausal women

As a group, postmenopausal women have considerable difficulty losing weight and maintaining weight loss. In a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial, there were three aerobic exercise groups differentiated by the number of kcal/kg per week they burned: 4, 8 and 12.

All of the groups saw significant reductions in waist circumference. Interestingly, however, a greater number of steps per day outside of the training, measured by pedometer, were primarily responsible for improved waistline circumference, regardless of the intensity of the workouts.

But it gets more intriguing, because the group that exercised with the lowest intensity was the only one to see significant weight loss. More is not always better. We should exercise to a point where it is energy inducing and not beyond.

Premenopausal women

Not to ignore younger women, those who were premenopausal also saw a significant benefit with weight maintenance and exercise after having intentionally lost weight.

In a forward-looking study, young women who did at least 30 minutes of exercise four to five days per week were significantly less likely to regain weight that they had lost, compared to those who were sedentary after losing weight.

Some of the strengths of this study were its substantially long six-year follow-up period and its large size, involving over 4,000 women between ages 26 and 45. Running and jogging were more impactful in preventing weight gain than walking with alacrity. However, all forms of exercise were superior to the sedentary group.

Aerobic exercise and resistance training

In another RCT with 119 overweight or obese adults, aerobic exercise four to five times a week for about 30 minutes each was most effective for weight loss and fat reduction, while resistance training added lean body mass. Lean body mass is very important. It does not cause weight reduction, but rather increased fitness.

In conclusion, exercise can play a significant role in weight management. It appears that 30 minutes of exercise four to five times a week is best. Longer is not necessarily better. It’s most important to exercise to the point where it energizes you, but doesn’t cause fatigue. This is because it is important not to be sedentary the rest of the day, but to remain active.

For more information, visit or consult your personal physician.

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