How to Get Skinny. How to Stay Skinny. New Guidelines.

How much cardio do we need to do to lose weight?  How much do we need to maintain weight loss?  If you’re not sure join the club.

The American College of Sports Medicinecollects studies from universities and research organizations and aggregates the results to give us a better overall picture.  Their 2001 guidelines recommend that all adults exercise a minimum of 150 minutes per week.  This works out to 30 minutes per day, five days per week.

New research has refined this recommendation.  The guidelines now account for your starting BMI. Here’s the break down.

To Maintain Your Weight you need about 150 minutes of cardio per week.

To Lose Weight for Overweight and Obese Adults:  Modest weight loss occurs between 150 and 250 minutes of exercise per week.  Significant weight loss starts to happen over 250 minutes per week.

To Maintain Your Weight Once You’ve Lost it:  The evidence is growing that there is a split between people who never had a weight problem and those who have had a history of weight issues.  Adults with normal BMIs need 150 minutes per week to maintain their weight.  For people who have lost a significant amount of weight and need to keep it off the suggested minimum is 250 minutes per week.  No, that’s not fair, but it hints at the role genetics plays in our dress size.

There has been a lot of talk about what qualifies as moderate physical activity.  The CDC defines moderate activity as something that burns between 3.5 and 7 calories per minute.  Here’s are some examples …

  • Walking fast
  • Water Aerobics
  • Biking on flat terrain
  • Raking the lawn
  • Playing doubles tennis

By contrast here are some vigorous activities

  • Running
  • Biking quickly and uphill
  • Playing basketball or singles tennis

You get the idea.  A leisurely stroll with your dog does not count as moderate activity, a brisk walk with arms pumping does.  Generally speaking on the rate of perceived exertion scale (RPE) you need to be working at a 5 to a 7 for moderate activity and a 7 to 9 for strenuous activity.  Yet another way to look at it, you need to break a sweat and feel somewhat uncomfortable.  You should be able to talk in brief sentences but not paragraphs.

Finally, the ACSM also recommends that you do resistance training two times per week in addition to the cardio.  Resistance training is lifting weights, Pilates, Yoga, circuit training, etc.

Let me know if you found this post useful or if you need any more suggestions for activities.  Here’s a BMI calculator if you need one.