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Does exercise help to lose weight?


It’s no surprise that exercise is one of the first things we look at when we decide it’s time to lose weight.

We readily sign up for that gym membership and commit to extra walks with the dog, believing that if we get enough exercise, the number on the scale will drop.

It’s also perhaps not surprising that many of us get discouraged when we follow this routine for months and see no change on the scale. That’s why I often get the question: does exercise help to lose weight, or is it just a diet?

Like all things weight loss, the short answer is: it’s complicated.

Read more: What is the ‘weight set point’ and why does it make it so hard to maintain your weight?

What does the study say about exercise and weight?

There have been many studies about the past 70 years exploring the role exercise plays in weight management. Recent research on the subject has predominantly found that exercise has only a minimal impact on weight loss.

This includes one meta-study examining all relevant studies in the areawhich showed that those who exercised alone lost minimal weight compared to those who exercised and also reduced their energy intake.

A 2018 study found that substantial weight loss was unlikely when participants followed minimum physical activity guidelines. This prescribes 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. Total exercise volume had to be significantly above minimum recommended levels to achieve significant weight loss without dieting.

Studies show that you need to do about 60 minutes of moderate activity a day to achieve this significant weight loss.

But before you cancel that gym membership, we should also consider the significant amount of research that confirms that it’s vital to focus on exercise as part of any weight loss program.

Exercise is an essential part of weight loss and maintenance, despite the fact that it doesn’t work in isolation.
pexels/gustavo fring, CC BY-SA

Exercise helps to lose weight in the long run

Excercise will improve your body composition and prevent muscle breakdown. Our metabolic rate — how much energy we burn at rest — is determined by how much muscle and fat we have, and muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning it burns more kilojoules.

Relying on diet alone to lose weight will reduce muscle and body fat, slowing down your metabolism. So it is essential to ensure that you have included enough and appropriate exercise in your weight loss plan to maintain your muscle mass reserves.

Incorporating strength-building resistance training is also important. This doesn’t mean you have to be in the gym every day. Just two days a week and in the comfort of your own home is fine.

Research confirms that moderate-volume resistance training (three sets of 10 repetitions for eight exercises) is just as effective as high-volume resistance training (five sets of 10 repetitions for eight exercises) in maintaining lean body mass and muscle when dieting with moderate calorie restriction.

Studies also show that physical activity and exercise have a substantial effect in preventing weight gain after weight loss. a longer term study found that those who maintained high exercise levels (experiencing more than 10,500 kilojoules or 2,500 calories per week, for example by walking 75 minutes per day) maintained significantly greater weight loss than participants who exercised less.

Read more: Taking a break from your diet helps you lose weight in the long run

Exercise has general health benefits

Before you start seeing the results of exercise on the scale, you are almost guaranteed to experience the many physical and mental health benefits that exercise brings.

Even little exercise Reduce your chance develop diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Research shows that exercise is just as important as weight loss for improving health, as most risk factors for diabetes and heart disease associated with obesity can be improved by exercise, even if you don’t lose weight.

A physically active person with obesity can be considered metabolically healthy if they maintain good blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin levels. There’s good proof to show that the risk of premature death is associated with obesity largely reduced or eliminated by a moderate to high condition.

In addition to improving your health, regular exercise has other benefits physical benefits, such as improving strength and mobility. It also reduces stress levels, and even little exercise will lead to a decrease in depressive symptomsimprove mood and promotes a better night’s sleep.

This, in turn, will help you better manage your diet, with a boost to your mood, allowing you to choose healthier foods and avoid impulsive food choices.

Runner stopped to breathe on the bridge
Exercise has many more benefits besides weight maintenance.

It comes down to?

Exercise will help you lose weight and prevent you from gaining it back — only it won’t help you reach your weight loss goals on its own.

Exercise is one of the most important pillars of long-term weight management. It plays an essential role in weight loss and maintenance, just like our food and sleep choices.

To encourage more exercise, do something you enjoy. Provide variety, because always following the same daily routine is a surefire way to get bored and give up.

Read more: The last 5 pounds are really the hardest to lose. Here’s why, and what you can do about it

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