To Lose Weight, Exercise is Not Enough

Many new exercisers quit prematurely before they can fully reap the benefits of exercise because of unrealistic expectations. It’s bad enough that many think they can build the body of their dreams overnight but since the majority turn to exercise for weight loss, they also believe that exercise can do it all for them.

Take note of this study that was published in the 1997 International Journal of Obesity. Scientists analysed twenty-five years worth of weight loss research (over 493 studies) to find out the best method to lose weight: Diet alone, exercise alone or a combination of diet and exercise. The method of dieting used was caloric restriction. The exercise involved was aerobic exercise (walking, cycling, etc.) and not resistance training (lifting weights).

They found that exercise alone was the least effective method for weight loss and body fat reduction. The participants exercised regularly but did not change their eating habits. They became fit (more stamina, endurance, etc.) but did not lose weight. However, it is worth noting that when they were followed up many years later, exercise alone was found to be the best method for weight maintenance.

The diet alone group and the combination diet and exercise group lost approximately the same amount of weight -- 1.6 pounds per week or 11 kilograms in 15 weeks.

You might be saying to yourself, if dieting alone makes me lose the same amount of weight as dieting and exercise, why should I bother exercising? Well, because the diet alone group lost more lean body mass (translation: muscle) than the diet and exercise group. The diet alone group lost 25% of their lean body mass, while the diet and exercise group lost 2% of their lean mass. This is because only aerobic exercise was used. If resistance training were also included, there would have been an increase in lean mass as well as a loss of fat.

If you lose a substantial amount of muscle, you lower the capacity of your body to burn calories and end up having to eat miniscule amounts of food just to maintain your weight. This is no surprise since muscles are the “calorie-hungry” tissues of your body. Therefore, when they were followed up one year later, it was the combination diet and exercise group that lost more weight than the diet alone group.

The point I am trying to make here is that you cannot expect your exercise program to do all the work for you if you are trying to lose weight. You have to help it along by watching what you eat.

The reason exercise alone without dieting doesn’t work is because the majority of people increase their caloric intake without realizing it. The rationale is that since they are exercising, they now have the license to eat more.

Another mistake is they believe that whatever excess calories they eat today, they will be able to burn tomorrow by doing more exercise than normal. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Here’s a real-life example from a reader’s ‘true confession’ of a midnight splurge -- four slices of thin-crust pepperoni pizza, a 12-ounce soft drink, one scoop of ice cream, and a bag of potato chips. That is approximately 2,000 calories.

To burn that many calories, you would have to do about two and a half hours of high intensity aerobic exercise (around 400 calories per 30-minutes). What do you think actually happens the next day? Not all the calories from the binge are burned because it is unrealistic to exercise that long at that intensity and, therefore, the excess calories are stored as fat.

Eating habits aren’t the only things that need to be changed if you want to lose weight. You also have to help your weight loss along by becoming more active throughout the day. Sure, you might be working out regularly in the gym three to five times a week but the rest of the day you turn into a slug who hardly

If you want to see quicker results, purposely find ways to move more during your regular daily activities of life. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If your destination is ten floors up, get off on the fifth or sixth floor and climb the rest of the way. Believe me, once you get used to climbing stairs, ten floors is
manageable. A few weeks ago, I had to take my daughter to visit her doctor. Automatically, I asked the security guard where the stairs where. He asked what floor we were going to and when I said the eighth floor, he looked at us like we were crazy. This is not surprising since many people take the elevator just to go up one or two floors.

Stairclimbing burns about 480 calories per hour. That comes out to eight calories a minute – the equivalent of doing a Taebo class. Even if you just accumulate an hour’s worth of stairclimbing in a month, that’s 5,760 calories in one year or 1.6 pounds you have kept away from your body. It would be even better if you could accumulate an hour every week. Then you could ratchet up your calorie burning to 24, 960 calories in one year or seven pounds of weight. Not bad for something that you don’t even have to take time out for in your busy schedule. Besides, since elevators are usually full of people, you will save yourself a great deal of time.

If the escalators are relatively free of people, climb them like stairs instead of just standing there. As long as there are no security issues, park your car a farther distance than you normally do. If you have to park nearby, walk around the building or mall once or twice before going to your final destination.

At work, set your alarm on your cell phone or watch to ring every hour so you can do five minutes of muscle firming exercises or stretches at your desk or use that time to walk around or climb stairs. While watching TV, use the commercials as your cue to do exercises right there in your bedroom or living room. This strategy is the best alternative I know for very busy people who cannot find the time to exercise for thirty to sixty minutes straight. The goal is to accumulate one hour’s worth of
five-minute sessions in a day. This doesn’t just burn calories and shape your muscles but you will find that you have more energy and your productivity will increase.

So if you have been exercising regularly but you are a couch potato eating potato chips the rest of the day, don’t be surprised if you aren’t losing weight. Sure, you might be getting fit but you will still be fat. If you want the best of both worlds, exercise, watch what you eat and be more active the whole day.

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