Couple hiking to enjoy physical activity for weight loss

Physical activity and weight loss

Medically reviewed on May 15, 2023 by Morgan Spicer, Medical Communications Manager. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

Regular physical activity is important for a healthy lifestyle, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss.

How physical activity impacts weight

Though many factors contribute to weight, your body uses energy and “burns off” calories through physical activity. The more physical activity you do, the more calories your body burns. When combined with reduced calories, you’ll end up burning more calories than you take in. [1] This is called a calorie deficit, which results in weight loss.

Benefits beyond weight loss

Staying active also has benefits that go beyond the scale. Health benefits can appear as soon as you start to exercise and accumulate over time with consistent physical activity.

Benefits of physical activity include [1]:

  • Improved sleep
  • Increased concentration
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Reduced risk for type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and stroke
  • Reduced arthritis pain and increased mobility
  • Reduced risk for osteoporosis and falls
  • Reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety

In addition to health benefits, many people experience personal benefits as a result of increased physical activity and weight loss. These may include feeling more energized, having more self-confidence, and being able to keep up with friends and family members.

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Self Reflection: What are some ways you benefit from physical activity? How have these benefits increased over time?

How much physical activity do I need?

When it comes to physical activity, some is better than none. Though guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week, you can achieve health benefits while increasing your activity and working up to this goal. [1]

Your exact needs may be different, so it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider to discuss what level of physical activity is right for you.

Talk test

Knowing the difference between moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity is easy. Just ask yourself this simple question: “Can I carry on a conversation?” During moderate-intensity activities, you will be breathing harder but will still be able to talk with a friend. Examples of moderate-intensity activities include walking briskly (15-minute mile) and weight lifting.

During vigorous-intensity activities, your heart rate will be noticeably increased and you will be breathing too hard to have a conversation. Vigorous activities include swimming, jumping rope, and jogging or running.

Self Reflection: What are examples of moderate-intensity activities that you find enjoyable? What are examples of vigorous-intensity activities that you currently do or would like to do?

Getting Started

Even when you know the benefits of physical activity, it can feel overwhelming to build a new fitness routine. It’s best to start slow and plan ahead. Get started by taking the stairs instead of using the elevator or going on a short family walk after dinner. Even a few minutes of physical activity has real health benefits.

Self Reflection: What are some obstacles you face related to physical activity? What are some ways you can increase your movement in everyday life? What’s one planned activity you can do each week?

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  1. Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed May 15, 2023.
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