How frequently should you exercise for weight loss

Well it’s a great question with maybe not a perfect answer as it can depend on many factors which we’ll look at below such as how quickly you want to lose the weight, where you currently are in your weight loss journey and supporting food choices. The first thing we should consider is what type of exercises are you doing? Cardio, metabolic conditioning, body building, strength training, HIIT, Crossfit, body pump etc.?

What are the best exercises to lose weight?

The most effective workout lose fat may not be what you think it is
The most effective workout lose fat may not be what you think it is.

In a 2008 paper1, they took 200 sedentary men and women aged between 40 and 75 years old and put them on an aggressive moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic cardiovascular activity (running, cycling etc.) for 60 minutes a day, 6 times a week. They did this for a total of 12 months. The results? The men lost only 1.8 KGs whilst, the women lost an even more pathetic 1.4 KGs. That’s after a total of 18,720 minutes of cardiovascular exercise over the course of an entire year. You could get better results than that from just drinking more water (good hydration encourages the body to drop excess water or “bloat”). Could they have lost more weight with less exercise? Possibly but as we have discussed before herehere and here we really don’t find cardio the best exercise for busy Singaporean mums and dads to achieve their ideal weight loss results. We prefer resistance training which is more effective, requires less time, keeps average cortisol levels lower (hence less stressful), improves insulin sensitivity, improves sleep, increases metabolic efficiency and for most people is just more fun!

How quickly do you want to lose the weight?

Generally the quicker you want to lose it the more aggressive you’ll need to train up to 3, 4, 5 or even more times a week. The problem here is that the quicker you lose the weight and the more willpower you use the more likely the weight is to come back as we discussed in this article. It's all very well looking at your before and 12 week after pictures. But what about your before and 2 years later pictures? The biggest fallacy in the weight loss industry is the notion that once you lose it it's going to stay off forever. Steady, sustainable, permanent weight loss is what we want.

When the weight loss comes back: unsustainable versus permanent fat loss
When the weight loss comes back: unsustainable versus permanent fat loss

Where are you in your weight loss journey?

Are you just starting or have you lost a bunch already and you are getting closer to your dream figure? If you’re just starting out and have no health issues then, 2 to 3 sessions a week might work nicely for you (a session being 45 to 60 minutes including stretching, mobility, sensible warms ups and some core exercises). However the closer you are to your natural body weight 'fat set point', the more frequently you may need to train to lose the last stubborn bits - up to 4 or even 5 times a week. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should use a personal trainer for every session. But by doing a few personal training sessions and a few training sessions on your own, following a well defined programme, can most definitely be of huge benefit to helping you achieve your weight loss goals for good. Finally if you’re looking to get totally ripped and drop body weight beyond what we would determine as “healthy”, then maybe up to 6 times a week as most body builders do. Again, we would like to emphasise that this is not necessarily healthy though!

Where are you on your weight loss journey? At the beginning, middle or close to the finish?
Where are you on your weight loss journey? At the beginning, middle or close to the finish?

How are you supporting your weight loss goals with your food choices?

If you’re working on your diet at the same time then, you will respond more favourably to the exercises that you do. That is, you’ll get more bang for your buck doing 2 or 3 sessions a week with a diet that supports your Primal Pattern Diet Type. However if you’re engaging in unhealthy eating habits or eating in such a manner that doesn’t support your exercise programme then you’ll need more frequent sessions from up to 3 to 5 times per week.

Do you have any health concerns, injuries, postural imbalances?

Performing weight loss based resistance training exercises without building a good foundation first is akin to trying to build and fire a cannon from a canoe!
Performing weight loss based resistance training exercises without building a good foundation first is akin to trying to build and fire a cannon from a canoe!

Lastly, if you have any physical health issues, injuries and/or imbalances then, these will likely need to be addressed first, before engaging in the most effective resistance training exercises for weight loss. A deadlift is a great full body exercise that involves the recruitment of many different muscle groups. However if you have poor posture, a weak core, or other disabilities then specific corrective exercises will need to be undertaken first in order to build you back into a proper human shape, before adding in more complex resistance exercises such as a deadlift. Otherwise you'll end up pilling dysfunction on dysfunction resulting in poor results and injuries. A corrective exercise programme generally requires at least 2 or 3 personal training sessions a week before moving onto the more aggressive resistance training and weight loss phase.

Wrapping up

So in summary, it’s very hard to provide general guidelines without knowledge of the individual as every programme, just like nutrition, should be personally tailored to the individual. However we know you came here looking for answers so, “gun to our heads” we’re going to go out on a limb to give you the following guidelines.

 

Training once a week

This is largely for maintenance purposes only and will only prevent things like your posture getting worse but won’t have much of an impact with regards to helping you achieve your desired weight loss results.

 

Training twice a week

This is the bare minimum and is ideal for those just starting out and who don’t have the time or budget to commit to something more effective. The difference between once a week and twice a week is huge.

 

Training three times a week

This is the sweet spot for most people where you’ll get the most effective results.

 

Training four times a week

For those really committed and looking to work on weight loss coupled with with mobility, postural and muscle balance goals then, four times a week can really create a fully rounded and holistic programme.

 

Training five or six times a week

Purely for the dedicated, those with a sporting ambition, body builders or just those that love training.

 

Training seven times a week

No one. Everyone needs a day off!

 

To your health, happiness and longevity,

 

The Levitise Team

 

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1.  Exercise effect on weight and body fat in men and women, 2007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17557987

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