I have just about had it with all of these “experts” suggesting that exercise is not essential for weight loss! Seriously, where do they get this stuff?
Okay, I do understand their thought process…It is easy to add calories to the body and quite difficult to burn them off. After-all, the typical 30 minute light jog only burns 200-300 calories and thus it would take 12-18 days to burn just one pound of fat. It is equally disconcerting to note that the average lean person has enough fat stored away to fuel a 1,000 mile run without stopping to eat. An overweight person would have sufficient energy stored away to go much further. These critics also figure that it is very easy to eat 400 calories which equates to one tall latte at Starbucks. My younger brother use to joke, after running for 30 minutes at a stiff pace, “well, there goes that peanut that I ate back in 1986”.
The sad truth is, our body was not designed to give up energy easily. I concede the point.
The waters get murkier when you take into account numerous studies that have called into question the benefit of exercise as it pertains to the battle of the bulge. These studies suggest that weight loss is no greater when people incorporate a moderate exercise program to their diet program. I will discuss these studies in a future blog, but I do concede the point that these studies did suggest that weight loss was no greater in the exercise group compared to the diet only group.
Why is this? Why would any study suggest that exercise is useless?
Well, I can explain. First, we are all taught that moderation is a necessary part of any lifelong program. I disagree. Moderation is too often used to describe mediocrity, and mediocrity kills! Americans have been killing themselves slowly with standard, run-of-the-mill, American Dietetics Association approved…mediocrity. These studies were no different, they used “moderate” and “mediocre” exercise regimens on top of “moderate” and “mediocre” diet programs and concluded with mediocre results!
A recent study found that exercise resulted in:
- Less hunger
- Improved fat burning
- Improved muscle mass and thus metabolism
- Fewer new fat cells developing over time
These findings sound important to me. Other studies have shown that even when “moderate” exercise does not result in increased weight loss, it helps to keep the fat from returning! Again…an important finding. There are a number of deficiencies in the negative studies on exercise and weight loss.
- The exercise programs are typically aerobic only and quite wimpy
- The duration of the study is not sufficient to result in some of the long term benefits of exercise (such as increased numbers of mitochondria and fat burning enzymes)
- The studies do not look past the immediate weight loss to the ability to keep the weight off after study’s end
- The studies fail to measure the other benefits of exercise including increased muscle tone and improved quality of life
The take-home message is simple. Exercise is a magnifier of long term weight loss, not the sole strategy. A poor diet will always trump the benefit of exercise as it pertains to weight loss. Focus on diet first and then always add both resistance and aerobic exercise to the formula as a magnifier of benefit.