The conventional wisdom that exercise is essential for shedding pounds is actually fairly new. As recently as the 1960s, doctors routinely advised against rigorous exercise, particularly for older adults who could injure themselves. Today doctors encourage even their oldest patients to exercise, which is sound advice for many reasons: People who regularly exercise are at significantly lower risk for all manner of diseases - those of the heart in particular. They less often develop cancer,If you are at all interested in the diet/exercise/weight loss topic, and many other illnesses. But the past few years of obesity research show that the role of exercise in weight loss has been wildly overstated. do go and read the whole article; the various studies done and what they showed are extremely revealing and interesting.
"In general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless," says Eric Ravussin, chair in diabetes and metabolism at and a prominent exercise researcher. Many recent studies have found that exercise isn't as important in helping people lose weight as you hear so regularly in gym advertisements or on shows like - or, for that matter, from magazines like this one.
The basic problem is that while it's true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise has another effect: it can stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn't necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder.
Earlier this year, the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE - PLoS is the nonprofit - published a remarkable study supervised by a colleague of Ravussin's, Dr. Timothy Church, who holds the rather grand title of chair in health wisdom at LSU. Church's team randomly assigned into four groups 464 overweight women who didn't regularly exercise. Women in three of the groups were asked to work out with a personal trainer for 72 min., 136 min., and 194 min. per week, respectively, for six months. Women in the fourth cluster, the control group, were told to maintain their usual physical-activity routines. All the women were asked not to change their and to fill out monthly medical-symptom questionnaires.
The findings were surprising. On average, the women in all the groups, even the control group, lost weight, but the women who exercised - sweating it out with a trainer several days a week for six months - did not lose significantly more weight than the control subjects did. (The control-group women may have lost weight because they were filling out those regular health forms, which may have prompted them to consume fewer doughnuts.) Some of the women in each of the four groups actually gained weight, some more than 10 lb. each.
What's going on here? Church calls it compensation, but you and I might know it as the lip-licking anticipation of perfectly salted, golden-brown French fries after a hard trip to the gym. Whether because exercise made them hungry or because they wanted to reward themselves (or both), most of the women who exercised ate more than they did before they started the experiment. Or they compensated in another way, by moving around a lot less than usual after they got home. [...]
You might think half a muffin over an entire day wouldn't matter much, particularly if you exercise regularly. After all, doesn't exercise turn fat to muscle, and doesn't muscle process excess calories more efficiently than fat does?
Yes, although the muscle-fat relationship is often misunderstood. According to calculations published in the journal Obesity Research by a in 2001, a pound of muscle burns approximately six calories a day in a resting body, compared with the two calories that a pound of fat burns. Which means that after you work out hard enough to convert, say, 10 lb. of fat to muscle - a major achievement - you would be able to eat only an extra 40 , about the amount in a teaspoon of butter, before beginning to gain weight. Good luck with that.
Things like this can be frustrating to read, especially for those of us who have a few pounds to lose. What's the answer, though, if exercise doesn't really help? Is weight loss really all but impossible, as some think?
It's a lot harder than many people think that it is, but it's not impossible to lose some weight. But we have to define the terms "lose" and "some."
If by "lose" we mean reduce the numbers on the scale and maintain that newer, smaller number, then weight loss is very, very hard. And if by "some" we mean more than 5% to 10% of our current body weight, then weight loss is even harder. The people who never need to lose even 5% of their body weight, or who never see the numbers on the scale go up in the first place, sometimes erroneously assume that being fat means one is lazy, undisciplined, and a glutton. None of those is necessarily true--but the process necessary to lose a significant amount of weight and then keep it off is much more complicated than some people think it is.
Should we keep exercising? Of course--the health benefits of exercise transcend weight loss, and so long as the kind of "overcompensating" talked about in the article doesn't take over one's diet, exercise at least won't be an enemy to weight loss. But to lose weight, it's the calories that matter; you must create a 3500 calorie deficit, or burn 3500 more calories than you consume, for every pound you lose.
And one of our worst enemies in this battle is the modern idea of portion sizes; click here to take two short portion size quizzes.
The more I progress in my various attempts to lose weight and keep it off, the more I'm thinking that the key to this achievement is to create an approach to food that I think of as "purposeful eating." Just as "mindless eating" describes the quick trip through a fast-food restaurant's drive-thru and the resulting high-calorie, high-salt meal we don't really want, but are too hungry to resist, so does "purposeful eating" describe an attitude toward food that considers portion size and caloric content, that seeks healthy food and avoids the snack pitfalls, that looks for nutritional content over ease and convenience, and that manages to do the job of giving us energy and fuel without overdoing it to the extent that weight loss is halted or weight gain results.
I'm not sure how "purposeful eating" will work as a weight loss strategy, but I'll report back here when I've been doing it for a while. And I'm not going to give up on exercise--but I'm not going to expect the numbers on the scale to drop without a concerted effort on the calorie-reduction side of the weight loss equation.