How Much Activity Do I Need?

Updated on January 16, 2010
J.C. asks from Rustburg, VA
14 answers

A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Being on the meds completely changed my life for the better! I've always struggled with my weight though. I'm only 5lbs lighter than I was before I was diagnosed, and I'm sick of living like that. I can't pay for Weight Watchers or anything, but I also know what my biggest problems were (portion sizes, emotional eating, etc). Now I'm changing all of that, and I'm exercising when I can, but my kids won't do my videos with me and many days I only get a free minute when they're already up. Part of the big reason I want to get healthier is so I'm alive for them and my grandkids. (I have a great-grandmother who knows my kids, and I kind of like the thought of that being me in 70+ years!) I can't see that ignoring them in the process of getting healthy could be a good thing. I also only get to spend time with my hubby half the week and then about 30 mins before we go to bed, so I don't want to do my exercise then-it's our communication time, and both of us feel it's very important. My kids do love being active, and running around the house, and we love putting music on and dancing, but we've done this since day one and it doesn't seem to affect my weight. We just do it randomly during the day. I feel lost. How much activity do I need? Is there some specific amount I should make sure I'm getting in, in addition to all the stuff with the kids? Should I just run and dance with them more? And how much more? I need to lose 85 lbs, and I know it won't come off overnight, and that changing my eating habits will help, but what more do I need to do physically?

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for the encouragement! I did get a pedometer, and I'm starting to get up earlier to get some extra activity in before the kids are up and without sacrificing time with my hubby. I was getting bored with my dvd's (weren't a challenge, didn't give me a lot of variety, etc) so I bought a new set so now once I get these in (it's a Zumba set) I'll have new challenges of learning it, doing it, and then can switch it up with my other dvds. I also went to the Dr and found my cholesterol isn't what it needs to be, so I'm making more dietary sacrifices for a better ( and longer!) life and then I'll go back in 6 mo to check my progress before we want to try for another baby. Thanks for all the ideas-we're waiting for better weather for some of them, but looking forward to doing them as a family to get us all active so that my kids will hopefully never have the challenges I've had.

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answers from Washington DC on

J., I have battled my weight since I was 14, also a thyroid issue (nontheless, that is not a problem any more). I have 3 children and I know how busy things can get. When I only had the two older kids, I wanted to do something different. I decided to put some effort into helping others, I chose to participate in the breast cancer 3-day. After walking, I noticed a slight weight change and liked it!! So I have been walking ever since. I walk about 3 - 4 miles a day. I also have to watch how much I eat. I started off walking 5 days and worked up to 7/wk. I would also allow myself one day to eat anything I wanted. I went on and had another child and suffered terribly from depression, weight was an issue again. I am back to walking. Where do I find my time? Well, Summers and when the older kids are not in activities, we get out (little one in the stroller) and walk about 3 miles. When they are busy and the youngest is in school (when it is too cold or too wet) I head over to the mall and walk there about 4 miles. To add to everything, we just got a dog before Christmas. I will sometimes chose to walk 2 miles at the mall and walk outdoors all bundled up with the dog, again about 2 miles. It is NOT easy to do, but if you are determined, which it sounds like you are, it will come off. You just need to commit. The best of luck to you.

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answers from Indianapolis on

It's hard to know how much activity you need because it's completely dependent upon your metabolic levels, your caloric intake, stress, medications, etc.

Unfortunately, I've been a representative to Family Practitioners/Internists for almost 9 years, and I don't think they know any better than the rest of us despite having access to the best medical information. I was in the diabetes market, so weight was a huge issue, and very seldom did they know how to advise patients.

I'd check to see if your insurance covers the cost of seeing a dietician. They can help you put together a generalized idea of how many calories you'll need to help you lose weight that way.

If you are taking medications, some may have weight gain as a side effect (even if it's not listed on their clinical information which is only required when it affects more than 2% of the population). If you are on medications that may have the potential of weight gain, speak with your doctor/pharmacist to see if there is another, equivalent medication that may.

I've boosted my activity incredibly over the past few weeks (Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred, treadmill, elliptical machine), and I haven't lost a pound. I don't think I've changed my eating that much either.

So, I'm guessing it has something to do with stress. I need to figure a way to manage that as I really don't like how I look.

For a point of reference, a healthy weight loss program will be ~0.5-1 lb/week. It's slow, and the progress often discourages a lot of people who then fall back into old habits.

One nurse I heard speak (who'd lost 100 lbs and kept it off over a year) said she had to make a monumental shift in how she viewed her relationship with food, always took a sip of water before a bite of food, and really/really/really chewed her food well.

It takes the body 20 minutes to begin to feel full. If you slow down how quickly you eat, you may be able to reduce your caloric intake (plus high-fiber foods will help you feel fuller, too).

Good luck!!!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You could certainly take a soccer ball and go out and play with them or put them both in a stroller and go for a walk.

However, you might also want to consider trading off child sitting with another mom so that you can each get some "me-time" to work out or do whatever. Your kids are old enough so that you could put them in an inexpensive part day pre-school and work out during that time or you could join a gym with a daycare.

Personally, I find that working out is best when it is a solitary activity. It gives me time to think. It is about doing something for me, not just about the exercise.

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answers from Norfolk on

im in the same boat with you. my dr told me to walk 30 minutes a day. when you walk though you have to get your heart rate up the whole time your doing it. can you put them in a jogging sroller and walk fast for 30 minutes a day around the block. get them stroller toys that are only for the walks or a small radio ya'll can listen to while you walk.



answers from Washington DC on

Something that I've been using is a website called

They have a food journal and will even recommend menus to you that meet the amount of calories you need to lose weight at a healthy put in your starting weight and goal weight and how much you'd like to lose each week (up to 2 lbs) and they will tell you how many calories you need and recommend an amount of calories you need to burn through exercise each week. It's totally free and seems to be a very balanced program. I'm not familiar with hypothyroidism, but you could show the program to your doctor to make sure they think its a healthy one for you.

As for time to exercise, I started having to get up about an hour before my kids to exercise and shower before they get up. Best of luck!



answers from Washington DC on


First, I have to say I love the fact that you want to lose weight and exercise because you want to be healthy to be around and enjoy time with your kids (and maybe grandkids and great-grandkids)! What a wonderful goal!!

I checked through the other ideas shared so far and I agree with so much of it. I just wanted to add that you might want to consider buying a pedometer. You'd have to do a little research (probably mostly or all on-line). There are so many options out there. It may be a way to add some activity into your everyday life. Pedometers can count how many steps you take each day or distance walked each day. I've heard a good goal is 10,000 steps, but it takes a lot to get there! The first thing is to wear it and check how many steps you take in an average day. I think the first time I wore one, I took around 4,000 steps. Then you start setting goals to increase a little at a time. If you add some of the ideas already shared (hikes or walks with the kids, kicking around a soccer ball with the kids, some other exercise that gets your heart rate up, etc.) as well as those other ideas we always hear (park further away and walk, take stairs instead of elevator, etc.), it really starts to add up.

The good things about trying the pedometer is:
- It can be incorporated into your daily life because everything counts from walking around the grocery store to cleaning the house. . .or dancing with your kids! As long as you're moving, it counts as a "step."
- It can be done gradually. Like I said, you first just wear it and see how far you're walking (or how many steps you're taking) normally each day. Then you set small, reachable goals. It almost becomes a challenge!
- It doesn't require a lot of money or time. Once you choose the right pedometer, you've made your investment.

Anyway, just a few thoughts. I hope you're able to find what works for you among all of these ideas.

Good luck to you!



answers from Washington DC on

I have hypothyroidism and that makes it very hard to lose weight. However, I have still managed to knock off 20 lbs. since June 2009 and still have 15 more to go.
My take it that don't expect dramatic results over a short course of time and also maintaining weight (not gaining) is also a worthy goal, even if you don't lose it if you don't gain any is also great. If you are willing to see this situation as a journey for lifetime versus looking at weight loss as destination, then you will have much better chance at succeeding. Obviously, with the family, you are very active and all moms are always running around. What helped me is figuring out exactly what i eat, I wrote everything that I ate for two weeks. Then I took a look at it and cut down only 10% of it, I did not even feel hungry, nothing is off limits, so that i don't crave for it. Just eat lesser of the "bad" foods and less often and even the healthier foods i eat a bit less. Then once a week I just eat soups and salads only, but I do it every week. weight loss is 80% food and 20% exercise. Next I do only 15 minutes of free weight lifting, but I do it every single day in the morning without fail. I keep a diary of my weight and measurements. I was losing only 1 lb. every other week. NO one even noticed it, but now 7 months later, I see and feel the difference. The day after soups and salad, I would feel light and sometimes would have lost a pound. Then I would be careful that I don't gain it back, just maintained it. Consistency is most important in lifting weights to build muscle.



answers from Washington DC on

Wow, sounds like you and I are in the same spot. I have twin 2.5 year old boys. Here is what I can tell you. I did some research on this website.
Its the site from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. But, I cant fit it all in like it says. I try to do some kind of exercise in 10 minutes intervals about 9 times a day. I don't mean walking to the mailbox, I mean jumping jacks,squats or sit ups. For weight "training"I lift my kids up one at a time, about 15 times in a row. They love that. If you are looking to figure out how much to eat has some tips. I just eat off a kids plate and make sure I eat one fruit or veggie at VERY meal even breakfast. Good luck the journey is hard. Remember it takes at least 90 days to break a habit and to rewire your brain with good habits, so I have heard. I am still working on my 90 days.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Your primary care physician can give you ALL of those answers. Schedule an appointment!
Also, what about doing a video after the kids are in bed? That might work.



answers from Washington DC on

Good for you! You should be really proud of yourself for taking the first steps to being healthy.

That is what you are doing - getting healthy. Not losing weight or dieting. Remember that.

I agree with the other ladies, you should try the medical insurance route, talk to your doc and try to get a dietician.

One thing you could try is writing down everything you eat everyday. Including quantities. Every single thing you put in your mouth - including water (try to drink as much as you can). This not only holds you accountable for everything you eat but makes you realize how much you are really eating during the day. You will also find that if you know you have to write it down, you will think twice before putting it in your mouth.
If you go one step further, you can log those foods into an online food journal/calorie counter to figure out how many calories you really are eating. There are a bunch of free or really low cost calorie counting programs online.
This is critical, because if you are consuming way too many calories every day without realizing it, no amount of exersize (unless you start training for a triathalon) is going to help. It is really all about calories in/calories out. You have to burn more than you take in (less what your body needs to function) to have a negative balance and lose pounds.

You could also probably get away with 30 minutes of exersize 3 to 4 times a week to get started. I know it's hard to try to fit in an hour with little kids. And if you don't have a double stroller then your 4 yo will complain about walking for a whole hour... you'll be lucky in the beginning to get 30 minutes from him, but try. I'm struggling with that myself right now and I can't afford a gym membership. So I try to sneak in as much as I can on the days that I can.

Be consistant and persistant. Don't give up. And if you mess up with a burger or pizza one day, don't beat yourself up over it, just sacrifice those calories for the next day or two.

Good luck to you!!! You can do it!



answers from Washington DC on

Hi, I don't know what state you're in, but any good road Atlas of your state will have a list of hiking trails. Get a backpack carrier for your daughter (Chicco makes a great and inexpensive one), load her up, strap her on and take your son hiking. I can't think of anything that burns calories (and muscles) like hiking with a toddler on your back! We personally love the Shenandoah National Park hiking trails. I'm sure you could find some trails near you and an atlas should be able to guide you as far as difficulty and length go too. Just getting out with your kids into the fresh air will help. You could even just find some hills near your neighborhood and hike up them. Just an idea, I'm sure you'll gets lots of other good suggestions too.



answers from Washington DC on

My situation is similar in that I need to loose weight for health reasons...I do not have any serious health issues at this time that I know of or am being treated for, but I know that I am at a very unhealthy weight & have been for some time. I need to loose at least 50 lbs.

With what you've said I'm thinking that you may need to get up earlier in the morning and take 30 min to an hour to exercise to your exercise videos. I have them too - plenty that could be used...I just haven't been using them. So, you're being an inspiration to me to get up & move too. With a 3-yr-old son, you'd think I'd get enough exercise, but the truth is, I need to move in an environment where I'm getting the real exercise (and sweating!), not just being on the sidelines.

So continue on your mission to get up & get moving - it'll probably be more beneficial to you if you do it without the children - at least to begin with!

Best of luck to you!



answers from Washington DC on

I'm so proud of you for getting healthy! Muscle burns WAY more calories than fat and you can lose a lot of weight by weight lifting. I highly recommend Jorge Cruise's books. I started with 8 minutes in the morning and lost 50 pounds over two years. I know the time frame is long, but I would have 3 months at a time where I didn't focus on losing, and was happy to just maintain. It's a life changing experience. Imagine carrying in a 40 pound bag of dog food and realizing that you've lost more than that! And that you aren't so tired all the time because it's so much easier to get around. To do that program you warm up for a minute, do a few exercises with hand weights you can get at Target or anywhere, and then stretch. The first few weeks I would say it takes 15 to 20 minutes, but once you are used to the exercises and can just get right to it, it goes really quickly. I have a three year old and if I do them after he wakes up, it's easier to say "let me finish this rep" and then I'll help you. I help him with something and then go on to my next exercise. I know a lot of walkers who would really benefit from muscle toning. Good luck!

ps-In trying to get off the last ten pounds of my pregnancy weight I'm doing Jorge's 12 second sequence and it's only 20 minutes of toning two times a week and it's slow motions. It's very relaxing, but I can really feel my muscles the next day or two (I guess it must be working!) Only downside is he says after the first four weeks you need to use a machine like you'd find at a gym. I'm just going to start doing the exercises from the beginning again. He also has a brand new book out about limiting sugar and losing a LOT of weight that way, like 4 to 9 pounds a week. But my library doesn't have it yet :)



answers from Washington DC on

Realisticly with healthy eating and reduced portions , you could say that you need to exercise at least 3 times per week for about an hour , the kind of exercise that get's your heart rate up and and you feeling out of breath , do you have a double stroller? If so put the kids in and go for a fast paced walk , wrap them up so they don't get cold. If you live near a cycle track that would be a good place to start , not too much uphill walking to do plus you have the mile counters , so you can gradually increase your distance. I know you said you can't afford any extra , but maybe if you could also fit in a once/week swim for yourself and a rec center , swimming is a good cardio work out and will increase your lung capacity helping you to push yourself further when doing a fast walk.

Good luck


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