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What it Takes to Burn Away 1 Pound of Fat with Exercise

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Among the most common questions to ask about weight loss are how many calories you’d have to cut to lose a pound or how much exercise you’d have to do to burn through one. This sounds like a very direct question if you want to support your weight loss strategy and it seems as though it should have a very short answer. Unfortunately, as with everything else in life, it’s a little more complex than that.

More Than Math to Burn Away 1 Pound of Fat

It’s simple to say that one pound of fat is made of about 3,500 calories. Therefore, either cutting back on calories until you’ve reached that total or taking on exercises that will burn that many calories won’t necessarily cause you to lose a pound. Frustrated yet? Don’t be. It’s not actually that bad. You just have to factor in a few more issues before you can watch that number falling on the scale.

The key to losing one pound is not just to burn 3,500 calories, but to create a deficit of that much. After all, if you burn 3,500 calories but you consume 8,000 too many calories in that same amount of time, you’ll gain weight, not lose it. Therefore, you need to work with both your diet and your exercise in order to create that deficit and drop one pound after the next.

How to Understand Your Personal Calorie and Fat Burning

How do you do that? The first thing you’ll want to do is use a nutrition and fitness tracker such as the free one at ShareFit. That will help you to know just how many calories you’re taking in and how many you’re burning through your various exercises.

For most people, by reducing their average daily calorie intake by between 300 and 500, and by simultaneously boosting their daily activity levels – preferably by 300 to 500 calories per day – reaching the 3,500 per week calorie deficit to burn away 1 pound of fat is achievable.

How Long Will Your Workout Take to Torch the Calories?

Here are a few of the most common options to burn away 1 pound of fat:

  • Cycling – Whether on a bicycle or stationary bike, the average American man (who weighs around 190 pounds) would need to ride a bike at a low to moderate intensity for about 2 hours to burn 500 calories. The average American woman (who weighs around 165 pounds) would need to ride the bike for about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
  • Yoga – A man would need around 11 and a half hours to burn 500 calories. A woman would need 12 and a half hours.
  • Low intensity lap swimming – A man needs about an hour of swimming to burn 500 calories. A woman needs an hour and 5 minutes.
  • Jogging (average 6.5 miles per hour) – That same man would need about 30 minutes to burn 500 calories. A woman would need an additional five minutes.
  • Walking (average 3.5 miles per hour) – A man would need to walk for 65 minutes whereas a woman would need another 5 to 10 minutes to torch those 500 calories on the way to burn away 1 pound of fat, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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Here’s Why That’s Not a Long Time

Keep in mind that while that may sound like a lot in terms of a single session, remember that your goal isn’t (or shouldn’t, at least) be to lose a pound each day.  Usually, a healthy rate to burn away 1 pound of fat is four days to a week. Therefore, if you look at the timing for those activities spread out for a week, your goal becomes much more achievable.   

Think about it.  If you were hoping to burn away 1 pound of fat through low intensity lap swimming, you’d only need to do it for an hour in one day, or two half hour sessions, three 20-minute sessions, or four 15-minute sessions per week.  Just got more achievable, right? 

Same goes for cycling.  Yes, two hours of cycling sounds like a lot, but what if you did a half hour for four days of the week.  That slots right into a healthy workout routine.  The American Heart Association wants you to do a half hour of exercise most days of the week, anyway.  You could cycle to the grocery store and back four days per week or to pick up a salad for lunch four days per week and as long as you’re gone for 15 minutes in each direction, you’re all set!

A Half Hour of Exercise Will Do It

If you do cardio workouts most days of the week for about a half hour, then sub in a bit of strength training and flexibility/balance training like yoga, pilates or tai chi the rest of the days, you’ll turn thirty minutes per day into the chance to burn away 1 pound of fat on a regular basis. 

As long as you eat right (and that’s an important requirement), you’ll enjoy seeing yourself burn away 1 pound of fat once or twice every week. Keep in mind that weight loss isn’t just about exercise.  It needs to be teamed up with your eating habits to get the best results.  Once you have that mastered, you’ll naturally control your weight over the long term.