Exercise won’t help you lose weight (and how you can)

lady exercising top of mountain

Why exercise doesn't help you to lose weight

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Going to the gym is not always fun–would you agree?

What if I told you that you didn’t need to exercise to lose weight? I have found that exercise won’t help you lose weight.

There is a large difference between the health benefits of exercise, which are multiple, and the weight loss benefits of exercise, which are limited.

I always thought that if I exercised a lot more I would lose all the weight I wanted. But I have learned that exercise doesn’t play such a big role after all.

There is an article by Cassie Bjork that goes as far as saying that to lose weight we have to exercise less.

Let’s see why we can’t lose weight by exercising.

Exercise for weight loss

Louise Hay quote: you have been criticizing yoyurself for years and it hasn't worked, try approving of yourself and see what happens

Exercise doesn’t function well as a weight-loss tool mainly for two reasons:

1. Our body always seeks to balance itself

It is called homeostasis. For example, we always keep an internal temperature of 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit regardless of the temperature outside.

One study found that although indigenous people in Tanzania (Hadza hunter-gatherers) walked twice as far as Westerners, their daily energy expenditure was no different than that of Westerners, suggesting that our bodies adapt to our activity levels and find ways to keep our overall energy expenditure in check.

Basically, the body adapts to conserve energy and survive.

Extracted from the study:

The similarity in TEE {total energy expenditure} among Hadza hunter-gatherers and Westerners suggests that even dramatic differences in lifestyle may have a negligible effect on TEE, and is consistent with the view (…) that differences in obesity prevalence between populations result primarily from differences in energy intake rather than expenditure.

This means that what we eat is far more important than how much we exercise.

In another study Danish researchers trained a group of 18 men and nine women to run a marathon over 18 months. After that period, the men group lost an average of 5 pounds each, but the women group didn’t lose any weight at all.

group exercising

This study reminds me of the importance of doing things because of the joy they will bring to our lives in the process of doing them.

Gym attendance rates are poor compared to the number of paying members because the primary reason for attending a gym is usually to lose weight or become more fit, not necessarily because of the fun involved.

Our soul is always going to push us to do joyful things, which is why it’s so hard to go to the gym if we don’t enjoy it. If you set a goal of running a marathon because you want to lose weight, but you barely tolerate running, you might end up being very disappointed.

But if you want to run a marathon for the huge accomplishment that it represents and because you love running, then this totally enhances your vibration and helps you at many levels, because exercise is a great tool to help us feel better.

Self-care and self-healing are very important for our physical and mental health.

2. Weight is not the result of calories in versus calories out

KCAL exercise post

Weight is not the result of calories in versus calories out because the total amount of calories we burn each day is the sum of:

a. The calories we need for our body to function

This is called our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): breathing, pumping blood, maintaining vital organs, etc. This is basically the number of calories we burn while we do nothing (rest).

b. Calories used in digestion and absorption of food

c. Exercise

The obesity code book cover by Dr Jason FungDr. Jason Fung, bestselling author of The Obesity Code, writes that the problem with assuming that exercise is the way to burn calories and lose weight is that the BMR does not stay stable, that is, our body some days might need more or fewer calories to function; and as we have seen earlier, our bodies adapt to our new routines.

We might exercise more to try to create a caloric deficit, but our BMR might also be decreasing (we are burning fewer calories while resting, particularly if our body feels threatened).

Exercise represents a very small part of the total amount of our total energy expenditure; most of the calories we consume are used by our body just to function normally.

Our BMR depends on many factors (the higher it is, the more calories it burns while resting), including:

• Age

The older a person is, the slower his BMR is. You are likely to put on more weight as you grow older just because your BMR slows down.

• Gender

Females have been found to have a 2% to 12% lower BMR than males. The difference is more marked in older age groups.

• Climate and body temperature

If you work or exercise in very cold weather, it takes energy to keep the body warm. Mountain climbers lose enormous amounts of weight while scaling the tallest peaks in the world because their body needs far more energy simply to exist. Extreme temperatures can have a drastic effect on how calories are expended by the body (and thus, how much fat is stored).

• Pregnancy

Pregnancy increases the BMR, but this varies considerably among women.

• Diet

Did you know that women’s periods can stop with over-enthusiastic dieting? Our bodies will shut down to conserve energy.

• Health

Fever, illness, or injury may increase resting metabolic rate. Menopause might also affect metabolism.

• Drugs

Drugs used to treat hormonal problems like hyperthyroidism can also affect BMR. Some people report putting on weight just because they are taking specific medicines.

Also, for some people (me, for sure) we are usually hungrier after exercising. It is a normal hormonal response, so if we end up eating more it will be very difficult to cause any significant amount of weight loss.

There are many other factors that affect how much weight we are able to lose, such as genetics, sleep, stress levels, and body weight.

In conclusion, we have very little control over our BMR, and it is very hard to create a significant caloric deficit through exercise because the body will always try to compensate.

However, there are many people who have become very healthy while exercising, particularly over the long term. Studies have proven that people who are fit and healthy are usually very active and have been active for a long time.

Long-term exercising and being active has been associated with people who love those activities for the sake of the activities, not to lose weight.

Exercise for health

lady running

Exercise is excellent for health.

Multiple studies have shown the long term benefits of physical activity on many diseases, including coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and dementia.

Exercise has also been proven to help us feel happier by improving our mood.

When we are exercising, our body releases chemicals called endorphins, which trigger positive feelings in the body, similar to that of morphine. (This feeling is known as “runner’s high.”) Endorphins have been proven to act as pain relievers and sedatives.

Exercise can help you with the following:

• Stress reduction
• Boosted self-esteem
• Mental clarity and productivity
• Sleep improvements
• Body toning
• Happiness
• Addiction control
• Detoxification in your body of mind-altering chemicals when sweating
• Improved blood flow and oxygen movement, particularly with aerobic exercise

I also find that when I exercise I feel better emotionally, which helps me with my food choices.

When I’m a couch potato I always prefer to eat junk food, but if I exercise regularly I naturally feel like eating more fruit and make healthier choices.

Exercise indirectly also helps me with my problems. After I exercise I always feel like my problems are not as big as they are, exercise puts a different perspective on things.

Concluding thoughts

exercise equipment

Exercise plays a small role in our quest to lose weight.

Our bodies are designed to adapt and conserve energy, and our BMR fluctuates. However, exercise is vital for long term health, and it will help us to tone up and feel amazing at all levels.

The following post will help you understand how you can lose weight without dieting, and it will show you scientific proof why diets don’t work: How To Lose Weight Without Dieting

Additionally, you will probably enjoy reading the following related self-care posts:

Do you like to exercise? If you do, does it help you emotionally? Let me know in the comments below

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