To Fight the Flab, Women Need to Exercise an Hour a Day

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

A new study reveals women need more exercise than the current federal guidelines of 30 minutes, five days a week. For normal weight women who want to prevent weight gain as they age, 60 minutes or more per day of moderate exercise is required; almost three times higher than the current federal recommendations!

Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School researchers followed 34,000 U.S. women over 13 years. The average age of the women was 54 at the start of the study. The women followed a regular diet and didn’t try to lose weight. Normal weight women (with a BMI of less than 25 to begin with), who exercised less than 420 minutes a week, gained more weight than those women who met the target. For those women who were already overweight (most American women with a BMI greater than 25), even more exercise is needed to avoid gaining weight without eating less.

For women in this age group, your metabolism is slowing down, hormonal changes make women more susceptible to weight gain around the belly area and the battle of the bulge is an ongoing challenge. Researchers say if you’re not exercising 60 minutes every day, the average weight gain for normal weight women after 13 years is 6 pounds.

If you’re already overweight to begin with, there’s more bad news — researchers found no relationship between exercise and weight gain. This means for women who are already overweight, in order to shed the pounds, they will have to reduce calories in their diets and exercise in order to lose weight. So, preventing the weight gain in the first place is important.

I know what you’re saying: “I don’t have time to exercise more”. These days, everyone is worn thin for time but the good news is you have a few options. If you find it a huge challenge to fit in exercise for seven hours a week, you may want to consider exercising more vigorously for less time. You can cut the weekly time requirement in half if you increase your activity level to a higher intensity such as jogging, bicycling fast or swimming laps. Talk to your doctor before you increase your exercise level. They can help you set reasonable goals and make sure you’re not over doing it. If you prefer to exercise at a moderate level (i.e., brisk walking, hiking, bicycle leisurely, ballroom dancing, etc.), you need to devote a little more time to exercise. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

Moderate Exercise Goal: 420 hours per week

At 7 days per week
60 minutes per day are needed to reach goal
At 5 days per week
84 minutes per day are needed to reach goal

Vigorous Exercise Goal: 210 hours per week

At 7 days per week
30 minutes per day are needed to reach goal
At 5 days per week
42 minutes per day are needed to reach goal

Other studies shows physical activity can be accumulated in short bouts of at least 10 minutes each. If you just can’t find the hours in your day, try breaking it up. Take three twenty minute walks before each meal. Ride your bike for twenty minutes in the morning and forty more when you get home from work. Even though the new 60 minutes per day guidelines are essential to not gain weight, don’t forget: you are what you eat! Snacking on French fries negates your new exercise regimen entirely. Know which foods and fats you’re putting into your body and don’t forget to eat smart.

I know, it’s a lot easier to be a couch potato than a fitness freak. The good news is you don’t need to be a fitness freak to maintain your weight. I used to think exercise was turning on my remote control and ordering exercise equipment that I would see Denise Austin using and selling on the airwaves. Many of my friends have done the same thing. The ab rollers, thigh masters, stair masters, rowing machines and the Nordic Tracks have each sit unused in my house and are ready to be available any weekend to be sold at your next garage sale. I still have my Jane Fonda tapes, can you believe that? And, to make matters worse, some are still wrapped in cellophane.

After the news of importance of exercising each day for 60 minutes, I intend to make an effort. My treadmill sits in a lonely room in my house, but my intention is to crank it up, listen to Lady GaGa, or the Temptations, and let those endorphins kick in. Once I get past the initial 10 minutes where exercise feels like a total downer, I actually enjoy the treadmill and even begin feeling better about myself. I will watch my diet, avoiding eating those Bloomin’ Onions (2210 calories), big portions of fettuccini alfredo, and I will try to stick with healthy food. It will be really hard to bypass the Entenmanns donuts, however. But, in the end, I know exercise and changing my eating habits will surely pay off.

The key to finding the time is to get motivated. Spring has finally arrived. It’s not only a time to clean your house but a time to get outdoors, get moving and invest some time into battling the bulge. Put in the time now to prevent weight gain and you’ll avoid making it more difficult on yourself later on down the running road.


Cooney, Elizabeth. “Exercise Remains Effective Tool in Fighting Obesity, Study Finds.” News Nation. The Boston Globe, 24 03 2010. Web. 13 Apr 2010. .

Lee, I-Min, Luc Djousse, et al. “Physical Activity and Weight Gain Prevention.” Journal of the American Medical Association 303.12 (2010): 1173-79. Web. 13 Apr 2010. .

Ostrow, Nicole. “Women Must Exercise an Hour Each Day to Stay Lean, Study Says.” Bloomberg, 23 03 2010. Web. 13 Apr 2010. .

Steenhuysen, Julie. “For Women, Battle of the Bulge Just Got Tougher.” U.S. Health Lifestyle. Reuters, 23 03 2010. Web. 13 Apr 2010. .

This article originally appeared in The Menopause Minute, vol.71