Exercising To Lose Weight? Don’t Count On It, Science Says4 min read
“Want to lose weight? Just hit the gym!”
Have you heard that phrase (or one like it) before? Most people have! Losing weight and working out seem to go hand-in-hand. But often, people have a hard time solely losing weight through the gym. Hours of exercise can result in minimal to no results. This can be both frustrating and disheartening.
So what’s going on? Hold on to your gym shorts and hair-ties, because exercising to lose weight isn’t as simple as it may sound! Read below to find out the real reason why losing weight is so hard and what you can do about it.
Food Is The Main Culprit
That’s right – the juicy hamburger, freshly glazed donut, and ice cold beer are contributing more to your weight than the regular workout can prevent. There’s a reason why most people who frequent the gym eat healthy: Food plays the largest factor in weight gain/loss.
This is because we quickly gain back the calories we lose. An hour of running can be entirely undone by just a Big Mac and fries. An hour of lively dancing burns off around 3 glasses of wine. An hour of intense exercise-machine biking is easily undone by eating two donuts. It makes sense – it’s a whole lot easier to eat calorie-filled foods than it is to spend hours exercising.
Going to the gym can absolutely help you burn calories, but if you continue to eat unhealthy, then weight loss may be much more difficult, much slower, or may not happen at all.
So, How Does Our Body Burn Calories?
While we probably don’t realize it, physical activity and exercise is only a very small portion of our daily calorie-burning. We’re using energy all the time, particularly in 3 ways:
1) Resting Metabolism: Our body’s first priority is keeping us alive, so it’s no surprise that the majority of our energy goes towards our bodily functions, both the one’s we’re conscious of and not. This is also known as our Basal Metabolism.
2) Food Breakdown: Or in more scientific terms, the thermic effect of food. Basically how much energy our bodies use to digest food into more energy.
3) Physical Activity: All physical movements that we do account for about 10%-30% of our energy use.
Basically, this means that we only control the physical activity part (30%) of calorie-burning, since the rest of our energy goes toward functions we don’t consciously control. However, we can control 100% of the calories that we intake – that is, the food we eat. While controlling that 30% of physical activity is still very important, controlling the 100% of food we eat has a lot more effect on calories than just exercise.
So What's The Point of Exercise?
Don’t cancel your gym membership just yet – exercising is still very important and ought to be pursued! Dr. Kevin Hall at the National Institute of Health, who has studied the correlation between exercise, weight-loss, and food for years, says,
“Exercise isn’t the best weight loss tool, per-say. It’s excellent for health! It’s probably the best single thing you can do other than to stop smoking to improve your health. But, don’t look at it as a weight loss tool.”
Exercise builds muscle strength, tones muscle, improves endurance, helps heart health, and much more. It’s certainly very important to exercise daily – however, it’s not the sole tool for weight loss.
Weight loss begins with a healthy lifestyle. This means controlling what you eat AND exercising. Being smart about your calorie-intake is the best place to start successful a weight loss journey, and exercise is the perfect addition.
Ready to lose weight?
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