Weight Benefits of Exercise

Physical activity promotes weight loss and is a key factor for keeping the weight off.1 To maximize these weight benefits, it's important to understand how different types of activity are beneficial for different components of weight management.

Weight Benefits of Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic activities (e.g. walking, jogging, swimming) are the best option for burning the most calories per exercise session, which is helpful for losing and maintaining weight loss. Plus, the extra calories burned with regular aerobic exercise can make the difference between a diet that feels depriving and one that is satisfying and sustainable over the long term.

Weight Benefits of Resistance Exercise
While resistance exercises (e.g. lifting weights) do not burn many calories per exercise session, during weight loss they are the most effective way to preserve lean muscle mass. Preserving muscle is important because it burns a lot more calories compared to fat. Once the desired weight goal is achieved, regular strength training can build muscle and increase resting metabolism over time. Resistance training has also been shown to prevent the loss in lean body mass that is seen as one ages.2

Flexibility exercises (e.g. stretching) are an important component of an exercise routine. They help prevent injury and improve performance, but burn few calories and do not have major weight benefits.

Activity Type Activity Calories Burned Per 30 Minutes of Activity
150 lbs 200 lbs 250 lbs
Aerobic Swimming, backstroke 340 kcals 460 kcals 570 kcals
Aerobic Jogging, 5mph (12 min/mile) 280 kcals 370 kcals 460 kcals
Aerobic Bicycling, 9.4 mph 200 kcals 270 kcals 340 kcals
Aerobic Walking, 4 mph (15 min/mile) 200 kcals 260 kcals 330 kcals
Resistance Strength Training (e.g. free weights) 100 kcals 140 kcals 170 kcals
Flexibility Stretching 80 kcals 110 kcals 140 kcals
This content is reviewed regularly. Last updated December 17, 2011.

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1 Wing RR, Phelan S. Long-term weight loss maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1 Suppl):222S-225S.

2 Guo SS, Zeller C, Chumlea WC, Siervogel RM. Aging, body composition, and lifestyle: the Fels Longitudinal Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3):405-11.