Exercise is a key strategy in the battle of the bulge because it helps you burn extra calories. Walking on a treadmill is simple and you can even use it as me-time to catch up with a book, magazine or favorite television show. To shed pounds, however, you need to go at a brisk pace for an extended period of time. You'll need to commit to a pace speedier than 2.8 mph and a session longer than 30 minutes to experience results that show up on your scale.
While any physical activity is good when you are trying to lose weight, the American College of Sports Medicine notes that you need at least 250 minutes per week of moderate-intensity cardio to experience significant results. This comes out to about 50 minutes per day, five times per week. Depending on how active you are at other times, you may need to commit to even more time. The organization notes that exercise that exceeds 150 minutes per week is associated with modest weight loss and the prevention of additional gains.
Modest-intensity exercise gets your heart beating faster and your breath coming heavier. For most people, a pace of 2.8 mph will not elicit this response. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists walking at paces of 3 to 4.5 mph as being moderate-intensity. Unless you are just returning to fitness after a sedentary period, you'll have to pick up the pace to reach the walking intensity necessary to help you lose weight. A study published in a May 2008 issue of "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" found that obese women with metabolic syndrome who exercised at a low intensity did not experience significant fat loss while women who worked at a high intensity did. Both sets of participants burned the same number of calories at each workout, but only the high-intensity exercisers burned abdominal fat.
To lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you burn. When you need energy to care for your kids, function at your job and manage the house, excessively skimping on meals is not an option -- so upping your physical activity to create a deficit makes sense. A 30-minute, 3-mph session on the treadmill burns just 146 calories per half hour. A 30-minute, 2.8-mph session will burn even less. Considering you need to create a deficit of 500 calories per day to lose a pound per week, you'll need to go for much longer, or raise your workout intensity to help you achieve weight loss. By working your way up to an hour you'll burn 250 to 300 calories. You can then create a bigger deficit by trimming 250 to 300 calories across a day's worth of meals to elicit some movement on the scale.
Don't be discouraged by the level of exercise needed to lose weight. You can start by walking at 2.8 mph on the treadmill for 30 minutes if that is what your current fitness levels can withstand. After several weeks, however, begin to pick up the pace so you are working out at a higher intensity and for a longer duration. You might even consider heading outside and making your fitness efforts a family affair rather than a solo treadmill session.