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How much do I need to exercise to lose weight?

While you and your healthcare professional should set up a detailed exercise plan based on your individual health status, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend healthy women who want to manage body weight and prevent gradual unhealthy weight gain engage in 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise on most or all days of the week while not exceeding caloric intake requirements.

You don't have to do 60 minutes at once; 30 minutes of an aerobics video in the morning and 30 minutes of brisk walking in the evening works just as well as walking for an hour straight. Remember: the longer and more vigorously you work out in a day, the greater the health benefit.

The best way to keep weight off once it's been lost is with 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day, being careful not to exceed your specific daily calorie requirement.

If you have been inactive, you need to work up slowly to this amount so you don't get injured or overly fatigued and become discouraged. Start with 5 or 10 minutes (or whatever you're comfortable with) every other day, adding one minute every other session. Low- to moderate-intensity exercise, like housework, gardening and walking the dog, provide a great deal of general health benefits, but for weight loss, you need to up the ante and exercise at a higher intensity with more vigorous activities like brisk walking or jogging, singles tennis or other racquet sports, aerobics classes, ice or roller skating, swimming or cycling.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.