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Friday, 16 June 2017

Why exercise isn't the key to weight loss — and what you should do instead

Count your steps. Hit the gym. Bike to work. If you've tried to lose weight, you know it's important to get moving. But with all our emphasis on working out to "burn off" what we eat, experts say we've missed the real problem: What we eat.

"There's a persistent myth that you can exercise your calories away," Andy Bellatti, a registered dietitian and the cofounder of Dietitians for Professional Integrity, told Business Insider.

In reality, while getting active is important for your mood and overall well-being, it generally does not result in rapid weight loss.

On the other hand, successfully changing what you eat might.

Dietary changes are especially important at the beginning of any new weight loss plan, Bellatti said, since people who are trying to lose weight by dedicating hours each day to exercise may get discouraged when the pounds don't magically melt off. Instead, it's better to focus on making gradual changes to your diet, such as eating more vegetables and cutting back on refined carbohydrates.

A large recent review of studies involving more than 3,000 obese adults who'd lost weight on a low-calorie diet compared how well they were able to keep it off after they either stuck to a new eating plan or began exercising regularly. While permanently tweaking their diets appeared to help maintain weight loss, "no significant improvements were seen for ... exercise," they wrote.

One reason diet may play such a strong role in weight loss is that exercise burns off far fewer calories than most people think, said Philip Stanforth, a professor of exercise science at the University of Texas and the executive director of the Fitness Institute of Texas.

This holds especially true when compared to the high caloric content of many processed and fast foods like burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Many classic fast food meals can add up to thousands of calories, sometimes exceeding the amount most adults need in a day.

"Thinking practically, keep in mind you'd have to walk 35 miles [roughly 2.6 times the length of Manhattan] to burn 3,500 calories," Stanforth said. "That's a lot of walking."

That's not to say exercise is unimportant.

Another large review of studies that included more than 1,000 adults suggested that in the long-term (a year or more), providing people with a weight loss plan that combines a healthy eating regimen and regular exercise helped people lose more weight than either diet or exercise alone.

A wealth of recent research also suggests that when it comes to the brain, aerobic exercise may be the wonder drug we've long been looking for. Not only have sweaty workouts been linked with boosting your mood; they've also been found to protect against age-related decline and may even improve memory.

"While exercise might not be the key to weight loss, it is important for health overall, especially for mental health," Bellatti said.



Mac n' Janet said...

Sad but true. Still I walk every day and do a bit of aerobics just because it makes me feel better.

RO said...

I've been doing a lot of lifting weights and trying tore-shape my body, but I've also been trying to keep my calories to 1500 or less. Sometimes it sucks having to watch my sugar, but your articles really help. Happy Friday! Hugs...RO

happyone said...

I agree. I walk 6 miles every morning and people are always telling me I can eat whatever I want because I'm thin. No way. I am careful of what I eat because if I eat more than I should the pounds sneak back up.

only slightly confused said...

It is definitely possible to lose weight without exercising and thank goodness it is. I have osteo arthritis and find it very difficult to walk very far let alone do exercises. I did successfully lose 45 pounds by simply going low carb and eliminating processed sugar from my diet. So can be done. Fellow sloths arise and go low can lose weight.

Margaret-whiteangel said...

It's what you put in your mouth but movement is also good.

eileeninmd said...

Great info and advice. I am trying to get out walking more, keeping track of my steps.

Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

River said...

I took a big step in the right direction today and bought a piece of fresh fish for my dinner. I haven't eaten fresh fish in twenty years.

Anonymous said...

Very good info to read. Happy weekend.

Lorrie said...

A balanced approach is best. Good advice here. I find a combination of reducing refined carbs (to very, very little) and exercise works best for me.

Carol Blackburn said...

I am like ONLY SLIGHTLY CONFUSED above who has arthritis and can't really exercise much. Sometimes just a bit of walking does me in for days if there is any rough terrain involved or the slightest hills. So my exercise is mostly easy housework, going to the supermarket and such. I started eating high fat/low carb about 9 weeks ago and have gone from 154 to 141 and I feel much better in my clothes. I am 5'2" so I am considered obese. I can actually see the difference a bit now when I look in the mirror. It's encouraging plus I'm loving the new recipes I'm finding on all of the websites dealing with HFLC eating. I've actually started cooking again and my husband is reaping the benefits too. Thanks for your blog. I do enjoy it very much.
Enjoy your day.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

This is so well written. I've tried to explain this to friends and family over the years but you explain it so well. When you are trying to lose weight, you have to change your diet. But when you've corrected your diet and lost weight, then exercise will help you keep the weight off.

Magic Love Crow said...

Very interesting! Thank you for this information!