Exercise Won’t Help You Lose Weight

5dd5d33266d8a331169b1fcf1bfa321dI’ve been thinking a couple of weeks about this post.  Yes, my headline is designed to shock and agitate… but (generally) it is factually accurate.

I must start by saying the obvious: exercise IS good for you.  Exercise is good for your heart, your lungs, even your brain.  Exercise helps strengthen and tone your muscles.  Exercise is a stress reliever and an anti-depressant for many.

Having said all of that: exercise won’t really help you lose weight.

I used to say the way to lose weight was to eat less and exercise more.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  If you don’t burn more than you put in, it turns to fat.

However, it turns out science isn’t on my side.

I have ten articles from ten different sources, but they all basically say the same thing, so I’ll put them in a list at the bottom of this article.

What scientists have found, time and again, is that exercise isn’t a great tool when you’re trying to lose weight.

The obvious question is, why?  Truth be told, scientists aren’t 100% sure, but there are some basic (and logical, when you think about it) reasons exercise doesn’t help with weight loss:

First, the amount of exercise required to burn any significant amount of calories is monumental.  If you’ve used one of those machines at the gym that guesses how many calories you’ve burned, you’ve likely experienced the frustration of walking for 90 minutes and burning maybe 100 calories.  For that amount of sweat, you expect a bit of a better return!

Second, and related to the first, is that many of us will eat something high calorie and say, “I’ll work it off tonight at the gym.”  The problem is, if you’re eating a 1,500 calorie entree, you’re going to have to exercise for 18 hours or more to work it off!  Of course you’re not going to do that (nor should you!), and so the extra calories stay.

The third problem is similar: you exercise for a half an hour, so you “treat” yourself with a high calorie reward…  and it’s often quadruple the calories you’ve burned off.  The net result is a gain instead of a loss.

Fourth, exercising can make you hungrier!  You are burning SOME calories when you exercise… and when you’ve already been limiting how much you take in, exercising can turn a moderate craving into an irresistible drive to consume large quantities of your favorite food.

Exercise is wonderful for many reasons… but losing weight is not one of them.  (KEEPING weight off, however, is a different story.  More about that on another day.)

See you next week; check out these links!

Mashable: You can’t ‘outrun’ obesity
Dr. Briffa: Exercise boosts the metabolism?
The Guardian: Why exercise won’t make you thin
Newswise: Only Effective Way to Lose Weight is to Eat Fewer Calories
New York Times: Dieting vs. Exercise For Weight Loss
American Physiological Society: exercise does not induce negative fat balance
Daily Mail: How exercise can make you pile on the pounds
New York Magazine: The Scientist And The Stairmaster
Science Daily: Exercise alone does not help in losing weight
British Journal Of Sports Medicine: exercise — shifting the focus from body weight


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