The Secrets of Success: Move It to Lose It

By , SparkPeople Blogger
How much exercise do you really need to lose weight? You've probably heard a lot of conflicting opinions from different experts. Some have even said that exercise doesn't help with weight-loss at all (more on that one later). What better way to find out than to ask the most successful weight "losers" how much exercise played a role in their healthy lifestyle?

When we were researching and writing our best-selling book, The Spark, we discovered 27 secrets of success that thousands of successful SparkPeople members have used to lose weight and keep it off. We're sharing our 15 favorite secrets of success on the dailySpark from March 1-15. Today we'll share the results of our survey on how much exercise SparkPeople members really did to reach their goals.

Secret #6: Move it to lose it.
Of those who reached their goals, 90% exercised regularly. How much exercise did they really do?

Okay, the idea of exercising to lose weight and increase your fitness level is not news. But these survey statistics make a powerful case for it. Of those who reached their weight-loss goals, 90% exercise regularly—an average of 5 to 6 times per week. People who reported being "stuck" (or NOT meeting their weight-loss goals) were significantly less likely to exercise. And those who did exercised less than the successful group—three or fewer times per week.

Recent news stories have questioned whether exercise really helps you lose weight. And when it comes to weight loss, what's the first thing people do? Diet. But experts have known for a long time that weight-loss happens more easily and consistently when people combine dietary changes with an increase in physical activity. That powerful combination allows you to eat a little more than dieting alone does (while still losing weight), burn more calories (to enhance your weight loss), and help reshape your body so that you see great results, which motivate you to continue.

Don't be intimidated by these stats. If you only exercise twice a week, that doesn't mean you're doomed to fail at weight loss. A little exercise is better than none at all, especially when it's done consistently. It doesn't have to be strenuous, long or boring either. Beginners should always start slower—with shorter workouts and fewer sessions each week—as they gradually build up their fitness levels anyway, so those 10-minute sessions you're squeezing in to your day are really working! In addition, exercise offers so many benefits to your body and your health beyond weight loss.

In case you need a little more convincing (or motivation), here are some SparkPeople resources that make the case for adding exercise to your healthy lifestyle.
For more secrets to success plus dozens of at-home strength and cardio workouts that you won't find online, read The Spark.

Did you miss a secret? Find all the rest of the series of 15 here (a new one is posted every day through March 15).

How about you: Is exercise one of your secrets to success? How has it made a difference in your weight-loss or body composition?

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I've tried the sit on the couch and do nothing approach and so far that hasn't worked. So now I'm getting up off the couch and walking. mmmm...low and behold I feel better.
I can maintain my weight through diet alone, but the only way I can lose weight is to exercise regularly. My best success some years ago was when I walked three miles a day at least five days a week and "watched" my diet. I've been discouraged the last couple of years, because I have joint pain as a side effect of medication I must take; however, I have recommitted myself to beginning to exercise again and finding ways around my physical limitations. Report
It definitely does make a difference not only the way you look but the way you feel. The increased energy level is the biggest boost for me. Report
On days I don't exersize, I'm hardly even motivated to eat right or drink the water. Exersize seriously motivates me and I hate days that I'm not able to workout (usually just Sundays or on vacation). I have lost 98 pounds and I attribute this to working out 5-6 days a week along with a healthy diet. I tried diets and never succeeded...once a joined a gym it was on from there! Report
I totally identify with everyone who is frustrated with working really hard and feeling like you are doing everything right and the scale not moving. I have had this feeling on and off for approx 20 years....yeah I'm only my dieting/weight issues have been a life long struggle. I have finally accomplished so many goals in other areas of my life, it was time to tackle the one area of my life where I had consistently failed...being healthier and losing weight!
I had to go in with another mindset this time, I was always so concerned with the number on the scale, that determined how motivated I was or how quickly I gave up! I had to tell myself that I have been overweight for 20 can I expect to lose it in 2 weeks?
I started doing the Jillian Michaels 30 day shred video. I said ok, this is designed to be done for 30 days....I have to actually give something enough time to work the way it is supposed to. Is the work out really hard and are there a lot of days when i don't really want to? yes. Do I feel awesome every time I am able to complete it? Totally! I am on day 21, and have lost only 6.5 lbs...but I have lost a lot of inches! By only weighing myself every 10 days, I don't have to worry about the numbers, and can actually notice other positive changes. Like being able to do a real push up for the first time in my life! That I have more energy, and the body that I have tried to dissociate myself from for so long is really capable of great things, I just had to give it a chance!
So give yourself a chance! Sometimes it takes a good while of little progress for your body to be able to make big progress in the long run! I am starting to look at myself in a whole new way, because I am making a ton of progress on making myself a priority, consistency in working out, and making better choices! As cliche as it may sound, slow and steady wins the race! Don't quit! Report
I honestly just can't imagine doing it with diet alone. Working out, pushing myself, seeing how far my body can go and noticing the changes in muscle and fat.. those things keep me going. They're the fun part - I HATE dieting. Working out alongside the dieting makes it fun, and if I work out hard, I feel like I'm less likely to make excuses for myself to eat junk. I think "Hey, I just ran a few miles.. do I really want to eat those fries now, throw away all that hard work? No thanks."
Losing weight without strength training results in about 25% of that coming from lean muscle tissue !! This fact alone is good reason to include weight training in any weight loss program Report
I agree with everyone on here who has left a comment about exercise! It is very important to exercise and eat right! If you don't have that combination, you might be able to loose weight, but you won't be in as good of condition and you won't get that wonderful shape! Report
I have lost 130 lbs. since July 2008. I had to start out slow like you suggested with my exercise buddy (Thoms1), I needed her to push me to exercise.
To this day she still has to push me out the door. We started with walking a half a block at a time in the beginning! Up until the end on this past November we only walked. Becky was to busy with work in Dec to exercise so we went the entire month without it. Then we joined our local hospital gym on Jan 3rd. We do cardio 5 days a week for at least 50 min ea day. We also do strength training 5 days a week alternating upper and lower body.

Now to answer your question I have been happy with my weight loss. I never thought I would be able to lose 100 lbs. I did plus more. I don't think I have ever reached a plateau. It doesn't bother me if I don't lose a lb each week. If I lose one ounce I am happy. That means I have stayed the same and I am doing something right!I can wear a size 16 (woven not knit that can give some stretch) jeans. I hope to get down to a size 10 eventually. I could not have done this without "diet" & exercise and of course Thoms1.

I know I took part in the survey but today my answers would be slightly different. I would say the answer to my success are my Lifestyle changes brought about by I never got the opportunity to say Thank you to Chris Downey in person at the Cincinnati Convention. I can't say Thank you Chris enough for the "new" me. Report
working out has been a hugh success to my weight loss. I have come to love working out. It feels so good to do it. I have found many ways to put it into my life. I can't imagine loosing weight without it. Report
In addition to burning off calories and improving overall conditioning, exercise is known to provide a big boost to one's mental accuity as well as health. Many modern corporations and the government now believe it to their advantage to offer facilities and encourage employees to avail themselves of these facilities during workday breaks as a way to improve worker productivity. By "moving it" you are not only losing weight but making significant gains elsewhere. Report
Our local newspaper is running a series of articles about exercise not being that important in weight loss. Great...this gives all those looking for an excuse a good one and I think they are really doing a disservice to their readers. Without exercise (in combination with a sensible diet) it would take forever to loose weight by just cutting back on eating. Cutting back a large amount will just encourage your body to "shut down" to store energy. I am certainly a supporter of the "Move it or Lose It" idea. Thanks, SparkPeople Report
Back in 2004-2005, I started going to the gym. I had a gym buddy, and we went at 5:00 a.m. at least 5 days a week, and worked out for an hour - cardio and weight training machines. I also ate what i wanted, but did it in 5 small (250) calories meals a day. I lost 30 lbs, trimmed down the belly fat, and was feeling great. Then I stopped going to the gym, although I continued to do some exercise, like walking. Over the next 2 years I put back on 20 of those 30 lbs I had lost, PLUS, the belly fat came back fast and furious, and more of it than before--I looked 6 months pregnant. Now that I am exercising religiously again, the belly fat is coming off, although the weight is slow to come off. So I am testament that exercise is key to weight management. Without exercise, fat accumulates in my mid-section, which is not good. Report
I am so excited I could scream, so I will AHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Just before I opened my email I weighed myself after having made a commitment to exercise everyday this week. I kept that commitment and my scale moved. I lost 5 lbs.
My scale never moves, but now I'm confident and convinced that regular exercise will help me meet my weight loss goal. Report
Having lost the first 40 pounds and walking and walking and walking I still have belly fat and am unable to do the usual exercise to get rid of it. Trying to find help with that ..... Report
In the beginning, I did cardio for 7 days per week, 30 minutes max. Then I added in strength training, about a month in, and THIS really kicked the weight loss & inch loss into ultra high gear! I, steadily lost 2 pounds, per week, till goal (70 pounds lost, total).

Now, I know when I reach a certain point (where I am now), that I am able to reduce my cardio waaaaaay down and do 3 strength, per week, and STILL lose, steadily.

Muscle is the BEST weight/inch reducer (or stabilizer) there is!!! It IS the secret to my success, that's for sure!! Report
Not only is exercizse making me look better but I feel better. I need that runners' high and all that good seretonin exercize produces. Report
I have been on a fitness and nutrition kick since November but on SparkPeople since February. I began my journey with maybe 3 days a week for the first couple of months. Starting in February, I began exercising 5-6 times a week and now I am losing the pounds and not just inches. I am not an exercise fanatic, but have become a believer in the value of fitness and losing pounds. Love it! I'm afraid of what would happen if I stop. Report
I Believe exercise and dieting makes all of the difference. I've noticed, if I don't exercise; I'm still flabby instead of shapely. Also, I seem to lose the weigh quicker as it's revealed in inches lost; as muscle weigh more than fat. I'm not a scale watcher. Try it and see what works for you. Report
I have a difficult time making myself exercise, but I always feel better afterwards! I have been overweight and sedentary, but after exercising for just three weeks after I joined SP I can feel the difference already. Report
"move it" is really doesn't matter what you are doing as long as you are in motion... i find that whether i am walking a mile for exercise sake or walking in the mall window long as i am moving the scale is moving too!!!... Report
I didn't change my eating habits for the first year I exercised, so I didn't lose any weight that first year. Report
Exercising a little helped me in the beginning because I'd not formally exercised in a long time; now exercising a lot helps keep me focused on keeping the weight off!!! Report
I'm starting to like it ... and I'm stressing starting (at first I had to make myself) Report
I have lost weight without exercise. The more nutrition I get, the more weight I lose.

In my past life, I did NOT feel good after exercise and couldn't understand all the fuss. I was left more exhausted, more sore and took a long time to recover. I thought it was because I was fat. Not so. If this is the case for you, there may be an underlying health condition as cause - was for me.

I changed my diet, and this helped a lot with my energy. When I exercise now, I know what the fuss is about. :D I'm still working out a few more health kinks, but for the most part, I DO feel better now. It's good for my self-esteem, too. Report
Exercise has abeen the mainstay of my weight loss. But just 30 minutes a day never did the trick. I had to kick up the time to at least 60 minutes a day, plus strength training. It's been difficult at times, but sticking with it has really helped me be successful. Report
Exercise is my #1 key to success (followed closely by portion control). And I really push myself! I'm always making it fun by trying new activities, like Forza classes, keeping myself motivated with outdoor hikes and snowshoeing, and pushing myself with weight training and running.

But the thing is, and I think this is where a lot of slimmers slip up, is that a workout should be CHALLENGING. You should be breathing hard, and your heart should be beating faster. Unless you are really out of shape, walking a mile in 20 minutes is not enough -- really push yourself to succeed at a NEW challenge! If you don't think the exercise seems hard, then you need to do more of it or change the intensity. Never be afraid to go a little harder than you think, because while you can scale back if it's painful, you'll hurt yourself more by selling yourself short. Report
Great articlel--I try to exercise every day Report
I love this article! I love to move, and am trying to incorporate it my life even more...I am addicted to the gym but am just trying to get out there and move more in everyday life. I want to be able to teach my daughter the importance of activity. I am so excited that spring is right around the corner, it will make exercising outside so much better!!! Report
Exercise definitely makes the difference, in weight loss and in over all well being.
I live in a northern clime and with exercise through the winter it doesn't seem nearly as long. No SAD. Report
Exercise is the strongest part of my weight loss success. I've learned the hard way that everything else falls apart if I'm not exercising regularly. Without the exercise, I have real problems keeping my diet in control and my attitude STINKS. Report
I've been going to CURVES 5 days a week for about 5 years. I love it. I go first thing in the morning & it gets me going for the day. They have a lot of machines & each one works on a different part of your body. I started losin weight in july & in Sept. I found out I had dietbetis & had to lose the weight & keep it off. I have now lost over 50 lbs. (thanks to Sparkpeople) & will keep it up till I reach my goal. I'm not on medicine now & don't want to be. That alone will keep me working on it. Report
Just keep moving. Doesn't matter whether its long boring gym workouts or walking around the park with your kids... just keep going. Report
exercise + wise food choices = healthy body, mind and life! It's a great combination! Thanks for a good article. Report
physical activity is essential for weight loss, overall health, and emotional well being. Our bodies were designed to work for us. Report
I started exercising really hard the past two weeks. I changed my diet and did an hour of cardio each day as well as 30 mins of strenght training each day. I lost almost 10 pounds after 10 days but now the scale is stuck. I am getting discouraged after such a good start but I will keep exercising and maybe week three will bring off a couple more pounds! Report
I feel better when I exercise...but I don't lose any weight even when tracking my food, watching calories, etc. It gets very discouraging when nothing changes. But I'm trying again and trying to accept keeping my expectations low. Report
I lost 8 lbs on the fastbreak. I ate out a couple times in during my third week with the SPARK. Well, I regained much of that 8 lbs. During that time, I also skipped several workout sessions. Back to the drawing and the gym. Report
I have been exercising consistently 4-5 times a week. My clothes fit better but the scale was stuck. I started using Coach Nicole's 10 minute workout videos and I see a difference in my body shape. I am trying not to concentrate so much on the number on the scale, it's hard though. I feel better, my clothes fit better and my size is not increasing. Report
I lost over a hundred pounds- combination of lower calorie intake and consistant cardio and strength training was the key! I am at goal now and I still workout 5 days a week. Report
I still remember that "exercise won't make you loose weight" article. Grrrrr, what a stupid attempt to get readers with an unexpected head line. It's like saying "quiting to smoke won't make you healthier". Well, it won't, if you start eating arsenic instead.

I find there's little that keeps me at exercising as well as a simple "work out 10 minutes a day" goal. Once there's a streak going, I just don't want to break it and that makes sure that I keep at it. Report
Well I did 5+ hours of cardio this week. The scale didnt budge an ounce! My calories were right on also. I figured I needed to do more than the 4-5 days a week of only 30 I've pretty much doubled from my norm. Still a stuck scale. Frustrated! Report
Exercise is key ~ it may sometime take effort to start, but I am always happy and feel great after a workout! Report
I can't imagine skipping a day of exercising. I am not talking full-out everyday but I do cardio every day without fail and then do strength training, etc. at other times but not daily. It not only helps with my weight loss, but my mental health. I feel so much better after I do it! Report
I usually exercise 6 times per week..Alternating 3 days of cardio and 3 days of strength training. At busy times, I sometimes skip a day, then I pay! Report
Running and lifting weights has helped me lose 20 lbs. I never could have done it just by eating less. I know, I've tried it before! Report
Doing just 10mins of exercise every morning when I first get out of bed kick-started my weightloss! I feel fitter, have more energy, and am more motivated to keep my diet in the healthy range.

The months I did more exercise are the months I lost more weight. I drew the obvious conclusion. Report
ABSOLUTELY!! If it wasn't for exercise, I wouldn't be as far along as I am. There's a joy in challenging my body to do new things and it's such a regular part of my life now that when I take a rest day, there's something missing! Report